Appendicitis: Cause, Symptoms, Pain location and Treatment

Appendicitis: Cause, Symptoms, Pain location and Treatment

November 23, 202010 mins read

Key Takeaways

  • the appendix is a small tissue located at the bottom right part of the abdomen, in between the small and large intestine
  • While its function is unknown, it is known to contain lymphatic tissue and good bacteria that improve immunity
  • it is well worth it to stay aware of the early signs of appendicitis before it is too late

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, a finger-shaped pouch that projects from your colon on the lower right side of your abdomen. Typically, you'll experience pain in the lower right abdomen. The pain from appendicitis happens occasionally but usually around your navel

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 appendicitis?

Appendicitis is a condition in which the appendix becomes inflamed and irritated. The appendix is a small, tube-like organ that is attached to the large intestine. Although the exact cause of appendicitis is unknown, it is believed to occur when the opening of the appendix becomes blocked. This can be due to a build-up of stool, mucus, or bacteria.

Symptoms of appendicitis include pain in the lower right side of the abdomen, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, and fever. The pain may begin as a dull ache that gets worse over time. It may eventually become sharp and severe. The pain may also radiate to the back or other parts of the abdomen.

If you think you may have appendicitis, it is crucial to see a doctor immediately. If left untreated, appendicitis can lead to severe complications, such as a ruptured appendix. Treatment for appendicitis typically involves surgery to remove the appendix.

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 clea

r 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.

How is appendicitis diagnosed?

There are a few ways through which doctors can diagnose appendicitis. The first is through a physical examination, when your doctor will feel your abdomen for any pain or tenderness. They will also look for any swelling.

The second way to diagnose appendicitis is with a blood test. This test can show if you have an infection in your body.

The third way to diagnose appendicitis is with a CT scan. This type of X-ray gives a more detailed view of the inside of your body.

What can you expect as appendicitis treatment?

The goal of appendicitis treatment is to remove the inflamed appendix before it ruptures. If the appendix has already ruptured, the focus is on treating the infection and preventing complications. There are two main types of appendicitis treatment: surgical and non-surgical. 

  • Surgical Treatment: If you have appendicitis, you will likely need surgery to remove your appendix. This procedure is called an appendectomy. The surgeon makes a small incision in your lower right abdomen and removes the appendix through this opening. Appendectomies are typically performed as a laparoscopic surgery, which means that the surgeon operates through several small incisions rather than one large one. Laparoscopic surgery often results in less pain and a shorter recovery than traditional surgery. 
  • Non-surgical Treatment: In some cases, appendicitis can be treated without surgery. It is usually the only option if the inflammation is mild and has not caused the appendix to rupture. Non-surgical treatment involves placing an IV line and giving antibiotics to clear the infection. You will need to stay in the hospital for a few days so that your doctor can monitor your condition and make sure that the infection is gone.

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.

Home remedies for appendicitis

Appendicitis is a condition in which the appendix, a small, tube-shaped organ, becomes inflamed and irritated. The appendix is located in the lower right side of the abdomen.

There are several home remedies that may help relieve the symptoms of appendicitis. Some of these home remedies include:

Rest: Rest is important for the body to heal. Bed rest is often recommended for people with appendicitis.Elevation: Elevating the feet above the level of the heart may help to reduce swelling.Ice: Applying ice to the affected area may help to reduce inflammation and pain.Heat: Applying heat to the affected area may also help to reduce inflammation and pain.Staying hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids helps to flush out toxins and bacteria from the body.Avoiding constipation: Constipation can worsen the symptoms of appendicitis. Therefore, it is essential to prevent constipation by eating a high-fibreer diet and drinking plenty of fluids.

If the symptoms of appendicitis are severe, it is vital to seek medical attention immediately.

What are the complications of appendicitis?

While appendicitis is not usually a life-threatening condition, it can be very painful and, if not treated promptly, can lead to serious complications, such as a ruptured appendix.

Complications of appendicitis include:

Peritonitis

This is a serious condition that occurs when the infection from the appendix spreads to the lining of the abdominal cavity. This can be a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical treatment.

Septicemia

This is a condition that occurs when the infection from the appendix spreads throughout the bloodstream. It can be a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical treatment.

Abscess

An abscess is a pocket of pus that forms around the appendix. An abscess can be painful and, if not treated promptly, can lead to severe complications.

If you think you or someone you know has appendicitis, it is paramount to see a doctor right away. 

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 the best healthcare platform provided by Bajaj Finserv Health.

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. Begin your journey towards a healthier lifestyle!

Appendicitis: Cause, Symptoms, Pain location and Treatment banner
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Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

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