The appendix is a small pouch-like protuberance that is shaped like a finger. It extends from the colon and there is considerable debate about its purpose. In the past, scientists thought that it may have been used by our ancestors to digest plants, but current thinking suggests that it houses helpful bacteria to aid in healthy food processing within the lower intestines. An infection in the appendix can be life-threatening and it is vital to recognize the first symptoms of appendicitis before it is too late.
Causes Of Appendicitis
A variety of conditions and disease of the digestive tract may contribute to infections within the appendix. The most common causes are thought to be a movement of a stomach infection through the intestinal tract or entrapment of feces within the appendix. There is a link to high levels of environmental pollution with more cases occurring in areas frequently afflicted with dangerous amounts of contaminants. No matter how the appendicitis originates, it is vital to seek a doctor at the earliest signs of appendicitis.
While the earliest signs of appendicitis may include general pain in the abdomen, it soon becomes concentrated in the lower right hand side of the abdomen. This location is known as the McBurney Point. In adults, it is located about one-third of the distance between the right anterior superior iliac spine and the umbilicus. A person experiencing an acute attack of appendicitis will experience high levels of pain when pressure is applied at this point.
Pain is generally accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms:
- Heightened periods of pain while coughing or sneezing;
- An inability to pass gas, leading to sensations of bloating;
- Fever and chills.
Most patients report elevated pain levels during movement. When a case of appendicitis rapidly escalates, vomiting and excessive pain in the abdomen occurs and none of the other symptoms are manifested. It is critical to receive immediate medical attention during this acute phase.
Problems With Diagnosis
The appendix is not always in the same position within the body. Individuals who have had major surgery may have their appendix relocated and later symptoms may be confused with other diseases. During childhood development, the appendix may be located higher in the abdomen. When generalized persistent pain exists, it is always a good idea to seek medical help. Even if the condition is not appendicitis, the odds are great that there is a significant medical problem.
When symptoms of appendicitis are apparent, a diagnosis may be made by a general practitioner. Additional tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis or to uncover the infection when symptoms are atypical. Blood tests confirm the presence of infection through elevated levels of white blood cells or proteins. Urine tests are utilized to rule out urinary and bladder infections as the source of the symptoms.
When there is time, an ultrasound may be ordered to explore the anatomy of the appendix. Three dimensional pictures are used to confirm the enlarged appendix typically of appendicitis. MRI or CT scans may be substituted, but the results are not as effective in accurate diagnosis.
When the pain is quite severe, the decision may be made to immediately enter surgery and remove the appendix. Even a short delay can result in a life threatening rupture, which releases toxic bacteria and their products into the abdominal cavity. This practice saves many lives, but does lead to many unnecessary surgical procedures each year.
Knowing the signs of appendix problems will protect you, your health and your family. Acting quickly can buy enough time to perform tests to determine the source of the problem. Being informed can prevent a crisis as well as unneeded surgical procedures.
According to WebMD.com, for the treatment of appendicitis usually used surgical procedure named appendectomy, which require a special diet plan after it, and proper home care. Never use antibiotics with alcohol if you have appendicitis.