Appendicitis : Symptoms & treatments

The appendix is a sudden inflammation of the appendix – a small growth in the form of worm ( appendix vermiformis ) located at the beginning of the large intestine, the lower right side of the abdomen. Appendicitis is often the result of obstruction of this small anatomical structure with feces, mucus, or thickening of the lymphoid tissue present. It can also be caused by a tumor obstructing the base of the appendix. The appendix then becomes swollen, colonized with bacteria and may eventually begin to necrose.

The crisis most often occurs between the ages of 10 and 30. It affects one in 15 people, and a little more often men than women.

 A useless organ? For a long time, it was believed that the appendix was of no use. We now know that it produces antibodies (immunoglobulin) like many other organs. It therefore plays a role in the immune system, but since it is not the only one to produce antibodies, its ablation does not weaken the immune system. 

Appendicitis must be treated quickly , otherwise the appendix could rupture. This usually causes peritonitis , which is an infection of the peritoneum, the thin wall that surrounds the abdominal cavity and contains the intestines. Peritonitis can, in some cases, be fatal and requires emergency medical intervention.

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 When to consult

If you experience a sharp, persistent pain in the lower abdomen , near the navel or further to the right, accompanied by fever or vomiting, go to the emergency room.

In children and pregnant women, the location of the appendix may vary slightly. If in doubt, do not hesitate to consult a doctor.

Before going to the hospital, avoid drinking. This could delay surgery. If you are thirsty, wet your lips with water. Do not take laxatives: they may increase the risk of the appendix bursting.

Symptoms, people at risk and prevention of appendicitis

Symptoms

The symptoms of appendicitis can vary slightly from one person to another and change over time;

  • The first pain symptoms usually appear near the navel and gradually progress to the lower right part of the abdomen;
  • The pain gets worse gradually, usually over a period of 6 to 12 hours. It ends up being located halfway between the navel and the pubic bone, on the right side of the abdomen.
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When you press on the abdomen near the appendix and suddenly release the pressure, the pain gets worse. Coughing, straining like walking, or even breathing can also make the pain worse.

Pain is often accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Loss of appetite ;
  • Low fever;
  • Constipation, diarrhea or gas;
  • Bloating or stiffness in the abdomen.

In young children, the pain is less localized. In older adults, the pain is sometimes less severe.

If the appendix ruptures, the pain may subside momentarily. However, the abdomen quickly becomes bloated and stiff . At this point, it is a medical emergency .

People at risk

  • The crisis occurs most often between the ages of 10 and 30;
  • Men are slightly more at risk than women.

Prevention

A healthy and diverse diet facilitates intestinal transit. It is possible, but not proven, that such a diet decreases the risk of appendicitis attack.

Medical treatments and complementary approaches to appendicitis

Medical treatments

Sometimes (in 15-20% of cases) removal of the appendix reveals that it was normal. This is due to the fact that it is often difficult to make an accurate diagnosis and the risk of missing appendicitis – with the dangerous complications that it entails – makes a certain percentage of errors inevitable. But removing the appendix does not cause any unwanted side effects.

Only a surgical intervention can treat an attack of appendicitis .

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The classic operation involves removing the appendix through an incision of a few centimeters near the right iliac fossa, a few centimeters above the groin. The surgeon can also proceed laparoscopically, making three incisions of a few millimeters in the abdomen and inserting a small camera into one of them.

Depending on the severity of the infection, patients may be discharged from the hospital the next day or in the days following their operation. The incision heals within a few weeks.

Complementary approaches

Complementary approaches have no place in the treatment of appendicitis .

Appendicitis – Our doctor’s opinion

The appendicitis is a common condition. Although it usually occurs between the ages of 10 and 30, it can occur at any age. Most people recover quickly and completely after their surgical treatment. However, a delayed diagnosis can lead to a ruptured appendix and peritonitis, which greatly increases the risk of complications and affects the length of treatment and recovery.

The risk of mortality is not very high these days. However, they remain present in severe cases and in people with several health problems.

The diagnosis can be made during a medical consultation, but more and more x-ray examinations are used to make it easier. Surgical treatment of appendicitis is increasingly being done laparoscopically, although a conventional approach is equally appropriate. The most common complication of appendicitis is infection of the surgical site. Its treatment usually does not require additional surgery.

It is important to remember that an early diagnosis can avoid several complications and that consulting a doctor if in doubt is the right thing to do.