Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. The appendix is a finger-shaped pouch which extends from the colon on the lower right side of the abdomen. It appears that it has no specific purpose in the human body. Appendicitis causes pain in the lower right abdomen. However, in most people, pain begins around the navel and then moves. As inflammation worsens, appendicitis pain typically increases and eventually becomes severe.
Although anyone can develop appendicitis, most often it occurs in people between the ages of 10 and 30. Standard treatment is surgical removal of the appendix.
The symptoms of appendicitis are:
- Sudden pain that begins around the navel and often shifts to the lower right abdomen,
- Sudden pain that begins on the right side of the lower abdomen,
- Pain that worsens if you cough, walk or make other jarring movements,
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Loss of appetite,
- Low-grade fever that may worsen as the illness progresses,
- Constipation or diarrhea,
- Abdominal bloating.
Depending on the age and the position of the appendix, the site of the pain may vary. In pregnant women, the pain may seem to come from the upper abdomen because the appendix is positioned higher during pregnancy.
The main cause of appendicitis is the blockage in the lining of the appendix that results in infection. The bacteria multiply rapidly, causing the appendix to become inflamed, swollen and filled with pus. If not treated promptly, the appendix can rupture and make more complications.
Most cases of appendicitis occur between the ages of 10 and 30 years. Having a family history of appendicitis may increase a child's risk for the illness, especially in males, and having cystic fibrosis also seems to put a child at higher risk.
Appendicitis can cause serious complications, such as:
- A ruptured appendix. A rupture spreads infection throughout the abdomen (peritonitis). Possibly life-threatening, this condition requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean the abdominal cavity.
- A pocket of pus that forms in the abdomen. If the appendix bursts, you may develop a pocket of infection (abscess). In most cases, a surgeon drains the abscess by placing a tube through the abdominal wall into the abscess. The tube is left in place for two weeks, and you're given antibiotics to clear the infection.
Once the infection is clear, surgery is done to remove the appendix. In some cases, the abscess is drained, and the appendix is removed.
There is no way to prevent appendicitis. However, appendicitis may be less common in people who eat foods high in fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.