Appendicitis: Cause, Symptoms, Pain location & Treatment

Bajaj Finserv Health Team, General Surgeon
November 23, 2020

When it comes to medical procedures, the surgical removal of the appendix is one that is very common. This is mainly because the body can functional normally without it and such a surgery can safeguard you against the complications of appendicitis. Naturally, given its seemingly unimportant nature, you may wonder what is an appendix? Simply put, the appendix is a small tissue that is located at the bottom right part of the abdomen, in between the small and large intestines. This vestigial organ is part of the body’s gastrointestinal tract and is susceptible to infection, of which a common symptom is appendix pain.

While its function in the body is unknown, it is known to contain lymphatic tissue and may serve as a storehouse of good bacteria that can help with immune function, especially after severe bouts of diarrhoea. Moreover, since the body can function normally without it, doctors generally recommend surgical removal regardless of whether patients have chronic or acute appendicitis. However, before undergoing any such procedures, it is always wise to know all you can about the condition and its implications.

Here is detailed breakdown of all you need to know, right from the causes of appendicitis to its symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

What is the main cause of appendicitis?

There isn’t a set cause for the development of appendicitis in the body, but many experts believe that blockage of the appendix is responsible for the formation of infections in the tissue. So, blockage is foremost among the likely appendicitis causes and when it comes to an inflamed or infected appendix, causes for blockage include:

  • Intestinal worms
  • Tumours
  • Enlarged lymphoid follicles
  • Build-up of hardened stool
  • Traumatic injury

The existence of any such blockage can bring on the early symptoms of appendix infection, which can include pain in the abdomen and swelling. Keep an eye out for these to know if you need treatment or surgery.

What does appendix pain feel like?

One of the first tell-tale signs of infection is appendicitis pain. For this reason, you should know what to expect and how to tell it apart from any other discomfort you may feel in the region. Unlike other stomach pains, here, the onset may be sharp and sudden, mainly from the lower right side of the abdomen. In some cases, it may also originate near the belly button, similar to a cramp, and slowly make its way to the right side of the abdomen.

Moreover, appendicitis pain generally worsens when you sneeze, cough, or even move, and will persist until it is treated. This should be a clear indication of this condition as many other abdominal pains, especially those in the digestive tract are likely to fade over time. So, if the pain is more toward the lower right part of the abdomen, occurs suddenly with a sharp intensity, and doesn’t fade, you should seek immediate medical care.

What are the different appendicitis symptoms?

When it comes to an infected or inflamed appendix, symptoms generally include the following:

  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Severe cramps
  • Low-grade fever
  • Nausea
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Sudden pain

While many of these are characteristic to other conditions, the localised pain in conjunction with any of the above-mentioned symptoms should be a clear indicator of appendicitis. Moreover, the development of a fever is also indicative of an infection and remember to keep an eye on it as it can worsen as the appendicitis does.

What can you expect as appendicitis treatment?

The first stage of treatment begins with diagnosis and this is quite tricky as the symptoms of appendicitis are fairly common to other illnesses as well. Doctors may resort to a number of tests before arriving at a conclusive diagnosis. They are as follows:

  • Physical examination for inflammation in the abdomen
  • Ultrasound
  • Rectal exam
  • CT scan
  • Pelvic exam to rule out an ectopic pregnancy

These are just a few tests doctors use to rule out other possible infections, before confirming appendicitis. However, once confirmed, appendicitis treatment is fairly straightforward, with most doctors recommending a surgery known as an appendectomy. This procedure has two routes: open surgery or laparoscopy. In the case of the former, it is mostly performed if there is a ruptured appendix as this can spread the infection in the abdomen and requires cleaning.

However, during a laparoscopic appendectomy, doctors use special surgical tools and make tiny incisions to get it done. This is easier to recover from and involves lesser scarring than an open surgery. In cases where the appendix has burst and formed an abscess, doctors will first drain the abscess via a tube through the skin before the surgery. This is usually done several weeks before an appendectomy to ensure that the infection is under control.

Besides these two treatment options, based on the condition, doctors may also resort to other aspects of medical are such as:

  • Antibiotics
  • IV fluids
  • Liquid diet
  • Pain relievers

These may differ on a case-by-case basis, but appendicitis is generally treated as a medical emergency that is best resolved with surgery.

What are the different appendicitis prevention tactics to rely on?

While there isn’t a sure-fire way to prevent appendicitis, what you can do is minimise the risk. One good way to achieve this is to adopt a healthier, high-fibre diet, as studies have found lesser prevalence of appendicitis in countries where people eat fibre-rich foods. This seems plausible since fibre helps keep constipation in check and prevents stood build-up, which is a known cause for appendicitis. To add fibre to your diet, here are some options to go with:

  • Oatmeal
  • Fruits
  • Apples
  • Lentils
  • Broccoli
  • Bran flakes
  • Pears
  • Barley

Besides controlling your diet, you should also be aware of possible underlying conditions that may cause inflammation or infection of the bowels. These can cause an infection in the appendix, but with proper medical care, you can take steps to prevent appendicitis. Here, your best option to speak with a specialist and get treatment early, as this can go a long way in maintaining your wellbeing.

Given the appendix location, and the fact that possible complications with it can cause it to burst and form an abscess, it is well worth it to stay aware of the early signs of appendicitis before it is too late. This is because it is possible to develop peritonitis, which is an infection in the abdomen that can be life-threatening. So, avoiding this is definitely something you should prioritise and at the first signs of abdominal discomfort, you should consider getting yourself examined by a medical professional to rule out appendicitis. Thankfully, getting the right healthcare on time is easy and quick with tools like the Bajaj Finserv Health app.

With it, you have access to the smart search function that allows you to find the best specialists around you and book appointments at their clinics online. To further add to this convenience, you can also opt to consult with your doctor virtually over video if a physical visit isn’t possible. Other telemedicine benefits include the ability to track vitals, maintain digital patient records, and digitally share these records with specialists in an instant. This makes availing healthcare simpler and more accessible remotely. To get started and benefit from these features, download the app for free from Google Play or the Apple App store today.