Appendicitis

Overview

Appendicitis is inflammation (swelling) of the appendix, usually caused by a blockage. The appendix is a small, finger-shaped organ attached to the large intestine.Although the appendix has no known function, it can cause serious problems if it becomes inflamed. The primary sign of appendicitis is pain in the lower right side of the abdomen. Appendicitis is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention and, when left untreated,can be fatal. The standard treatment for is surgery to remove the organ.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The main symptom of appendicitis is pain that begins around the bellybuttonand shifts tothe lower right side of the abdomen. The pain usually appears suddenly and worsens over a period of 12 to 18 hours, and may feel sharp when the area is pressed on and then released. People with appendicitis may also have abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, inability to pass gas, and a low fever. Young children and pregnant women may have pain in slightly different areas due to the position of the appendix.

Appendicitis is often difficult to diagnose because its symptoms can resemble those of other conditions. To diagnose appendicitis, doctors perform a physical examination of the abdomen and ask about symptoms. Blood tests may be used to check white blood cell counts, which can signal an infection. Urine tests candetect urinary tract infection or kidney stones, which can cause similar symptoms. Doctors may also order imaging tests, such as abdominal X-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans, to rule out other causes.

Causes

Appendicitis is usually caused by a blockage in the appendix that results in pressure, problems with blood flow, and inflammation. Hard stool, swelling of intestinal lymph nodes, and parasites can all lead to a blockage in the appendix. Appendicitis sometimes follows an infection or other types of inflammation in the gastrointestinal system. If the condition is not treated, the appendix canburst andspread infection throughout the abdomen (peritonitis) or form an abscess. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment Information . . .

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