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Appendicitis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About appendicitis

Appendicitis refers to inflammatory condition of the appendix, which is a finger like tiny organ attached to the colon and located in the right lower abdominal region. It is a vestigial organ which serves no function. It is very important to be aware about appendicitis since it is a medical emergency.

Appendicitis: Incidence, age and sex

Appendicitis can occur in any individual but is more frequently seen in children and young adults. No gender predilection has been documented yet.

Signs and symptoms of appendicitis: Diagnosis

The clinical features of appendicitis are typical and thus easy to recognise. An individual with inflamed and swollen appendix may complain of sudden onset of excruciating pain in abdomen. In some instances, pain may be so severe that it may wake a person from sleep. The pain may be localised to the area around navel initially but may spread to right lower abdominal area later. This characteristic presentation of pain is seen in most of the individuals with appendicitis. Pain may be associated with nausea, vomiting, inability to pass gas. At times, patients may also have low grade fever. It is advisable to contact the hospital immediately if one experiences such symptoms. The treating surgeon after taking a quick medical history and physical examination may advise for ultrasonography or CT scan to establish the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of appendicitis

Several factors may lead to occlusion of lumen of appendix, which result in its swelling and inflammation. This may happen due to presence of any foreign body like micro organisms in appendix. Sometimes faeces while passing through colon may get diverted to appendix, thereby clogging it. Moreover certain inflammatory diseases like Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease may also predispose to appendicitis. Very seldom a tumour in abdomen may press upon appendix and constrict its lumen, thereby triggering appendicitis. Sometimes no underlying cause leading to appendicitis is detected.

Appendicitis: Complications

Appendicitis when not treated timely, may lead to potentially fatal complications, one of which is its rupture. Rupture of the inflamed appendix is the most common complication especially in children. Rupture of the appendix may further lead to either abscess (pus filled cavity) around appendix or a more critical condition called peritonitis which is inflammation of the lining of the abdominal wall. Immediate medical attention is mandatory in peritonitis. Any delay in treatment may be extremely life-threatening.

Appendicitis: Treatment

Emergency surgical intervention is the mainstay of treatment. Appendectomy which is surgical removal of appendix should be done without delay. It can be done laparoscopically which carries minimum risk. Full recovery post-surgery may take around one month. In a few instances where surgery may not be possible due to health reasons or old age, medical treatment including antibiotics is advised. Adequate rest and liquid or semi solid diet is preferred in such circumstances. Abscess around the appendix may require surgical drainage and long term treatment with antibiotics to prevent infection. Peritonitis is a serious condition which may need immediate surgical intervention, prolonged hospitalization and long-term antibiotic cover.