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Symptoms and Diagnosis of Appendicitis
Appendicitis is a condition where the appendix becomes inflamed and swollen. The appendix is made up of tissue and is located in the bottom-left side of the abdomen. The appendix attaches to the large intestine and is about 3.5 inches long when healthy. The appendix is a part of the body that we do not need to survive and that we can live without.
There are a variety of causes for appendicitis. Most commonly appendicitis is caused by a blockage in the appendix. The appendix can be blocked by cancer, swelling from an infection, feces, or another foreign object.
Symptoms of Appendicitis
There are a lot of tell-tale symptoms associated with appendicitis. One symptom that appears in almost everyone with appendicitis is pain. Usually a dull ache or pain is felt in the upper abdomen, then the pain travels down to the lower right abdomen, where it feels severe and sharp.
These symptoms are classic indications that you may have appendicitis:
● Mid grade fever
● Gas that you cannot pass
● Swelling in the abdomen
● Decrease in appetite
● Nausea and/or vomiting following abdominal pain
Other symptoms that appear in half of cases are:
● Pain while urinating
● Cramps in the abdomen that can feel mild to severe
● Pain in the back or rectum that can be dull or sharp
● Vomiting before pain begins
If you are having pain in your abdomen that is accompanied with any of these other symptoms, you may have appendicitis and you should contact a doctor or visit an ER immediately.
Appendicitis is an emergent situation that must be tended to by a medical professional immediately. When the appendix becomes inflamed it has a high tendency to rupture, which could cause shock, peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum, or the lining of the abdominal cavity lining), and death.
Appendicitis can be hard to diagnose, and oftentimes isn’t diagnosed until you are in severe pain or the appendix has ruptured. Appendicitis often has similar symptoms to other conditions such as intestinal infections and issues with the gallbladder, so diagnosis can be difficult.
If you or your doctor suspect you have appendicitis there are a few tests your physician may perform. You will likely have blood drawn and a urine sample taken to test both for any signs of an infection that your body may be fighting off. Your doctor will palpate your abdomen to determine the exact site of the pain and to see if there is any noticeable inflammation in the abdomen. Sometimes you may also have an ultrasound or a CT scan to see if there are any visible signs of infection or inflammation.
Treating and Preventing Appendicitis
Unfortunately there is no known way to prevent appendicitis. Anyone could get appendicitis at any time. People who eat unhealthy diets high in fats are more susceptible to appendicitis, as well as people who have immune disorders.
There is only one known treatment that is proven to eliminate appendicitis and prevent it from returning – surgery. An appendectomy is a surgery that is performed in order to remove an appendix.
Appendectomies are common surgeries that are performed often. If appendicitis is suspected even a little bit, doctors will usually want to perform an appendectomy to prevent a possibly inflamed appendix from rupturing and causing more problems.
The average length of an appendectomy surgery on a patient with no further complications is two hours. The surgery can be shorter or longer depending on the individual patient.
An appendectomy is most commonly done laparoscopically with only a 4-inch long incision needing to be made in the abdomen.
Recovery time from an appendectomy is fairly fast when done laparoscopically, with most people being able to return to their normal activities in no more than three weeks. In as little as twelve hours after surgery you are able to sit up and walk for a short distance such as to the bathroom.
If your appendix ruptures, this requires a more extensive surgery and a longer recovery time.