Appendicitis is a common condition that affects more than 5% of the population. Appendicitis refers to inflammation of the appendix, a pouch-shaped organ that sits at the tip of your large intestine, near the junction with the small intestine. When the appendix gets blocked, usually from a piece of stool, it can become infected and inflamed. This can cause a number of symptoms. If the infection lingers, it can build, causing the appendix to burst or rupture. A ruptured appendix is a surgical emergency.
What Are the Symptoms of Appendicitis?
Each person may experience appendicitis a little differently; however, there are some universal symptoms. These include:
- Abdominal pain: Often, abdominal pain will start in the middle of the belly, near the belly button, and then move to the right lower part of the abdomen.
- Loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting: You may have a decreased interest in food, nausea or vomiting when your appendix is infected.
- Fever and chills: It’s common to have a fever or chills as your body works to fight off the infection in your appendix.
- Changes in bowel habits: Because your appendix is part of your gastrointestinal system, you may have a decrease in stool output, diarrhea or other changes in your bowel habits.
When to Seek Medical Help
If you are experiencing the above symptoms, it’s time to seek medical help. It’s especially important to pay attention to any symptoms of pain, especially if they come on quickly and are new to you. Appendicitis can come on suddenly, and acting fast can help prevent your condition from worsening and causing you to become even sicker.
To arrive at an appendicitis diagnosis, a healthcare provider will ask you questions and do a physical exam. They may obtain blood work and a urine sample to evaluate for infection. An ultrasound may show an inflamed appendix—however, it is often easier to diagnose appendicitis using a radiographic test known as a CT (computed tomography) scan.
Treatment of Appendicitis
The treatment of appendicitis is a surgical procedure known as an appendectomy. During an appendectomy, a surgeon carefully removes the infected appendix and helps clean any surrounding debris if the appendix has ruptured. An appendicitis appendectomy can often be performed using a minimally invasive tool called a laparoscopic. This surgical approach can decrease post-surgical discomfort and increase healing time.
What to Do About Appendicitis Symptoms
If you are experiencing symptoms of appendicitis, make sure to contact Advanced Laparoscopic Associates (ALA) as soon as possible. If you feel extremely ill, head straight to your local emergency room.