What Should You Know About Appendix Pain ?
Appendicitis is a medical condition in which the appendix, a small pouch shaped organ attached to the large intestine, becomes swollen and filled with pus. This is a very painful condition and needs immediate medical attention, because an inflamed appendix if left untreated might rupture and infect the abdominal cavity. Though appendicitis can affect people of any age, it is more common in the 10 to 30 age group.
Appendix Location :
The appendix is located in the lower right abdominal region. In terms of size, it is usually around 4 inches in length and is thin in appearance. There is no known function attributed to this part of the body, hence a person can also survive without it. For those suspected to be suffering from appendicitis, the location of the pain is very important in determining this condition. The pain usually begins around the navel area.
Appendix Pain Causes :
Opinion is divided on what is the exact cause of appendicitis, however, many health experts believe that it is caused by obstruction in the appendix, most likely by hard fecal matter. The bacteria in the stool will most likely infect the appendix, leading to the formation of pus. However, obstruction can also be caused by other factors like parasites, tumors, food, or buildup of mucus. This obstruction may be either partial or complete. If it is the latter, it will most likely require immediate surgery. Another plausible reason might be a stomach infection that might have traveled to the appendix.
Symptoms and Signs :
Symptoms of appendicitis may vary, but it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible, as it might become an emergency very quickly – sometimes even within 24 hours of first being noticed. The most common symptom would be the onset of mild cramping in the abdominal region, which can go on to become more severe in intensity, especially around the lower right-hand side of the abdomen. Another key symptom is mild fever, which may rise in case the appendix has ruptured. Other symptoms include stomach upset, loss of appetite, nausea, constipation, inability to pass gas and painful urination. One might experience just a couple or a combination of these symptoms.
Diagnosing Appendicitis :
- It is tricky to diagnose appendicitis because its symptoms can be quite similar to other conditions like urinary tract infection, gastroenteritis, kidney stone, hernia or ectopic pregnancy. If a doctor is not able to confirm from the preliminary symptoms and examination that the patient is suffering from appendicitis, he or she would recommend the following tests:
- Urinalysis to rule out bladder infection or pregnancy
- Abdominal imaging – ultrasound, MRI or CT
- Blood test to check for infections
- Chest X-ray to rule out lower lobe pneumonia that has similar symptoms
If the condition is not very severe, doctors might just decide to treat it with antibiotics. There have been instances when people have recovered without any surgery. However, appendectomy (removal of appendix) would be needed in most cases. If the appendix has not ruptured, the doctor will first prescribe antibiotics before the surgery in order to avoid any infections. Depending on the severity of the appendicitis, the doctor/surgeon will decide whether the patient needs an open appendectomy or a laparoscopic appendectomy. Open appendectomy is necessary if the appendix has ruptured or an abscess has formed, because this will allow the doctor to clean the abdominal cavity. Meanwhile laparoscopic surgery is less invasive, and hence facilitates a quick recovery compared to the former.
If the patient is not suffering from a severe case of appendicitis, recovery will be fast with no long-term complications. However, if there is a rupture in the appendix, it might be fatal, especially in young children or the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems. Additionally, there is a condition called stump appendicitis, which is a rare condition when remaining tissue from a previous appendectomy swells up, and the symptoms can be similar to normal appendicitis.
- As noted earlier, if left untreated for long, an appendix can burst and cause infections that can be potentially fatal.
- Peritonitis : the peritoneum is the membrane lining the abdominal cavity and it covers most of the abdominal organs. When an appendix ruptures, there is a risk of the infection spreading to this region causing severe abdominal pain, fever, palpitation, and swelling. Anyone suffering from this condition needs immediate medical attention.
- Abscesses : at times, an abscess might form around a ruptured appendix. This leads to accumulation of pus in that area, which is an attempt by the body to fight the infection. This painful condition can be treated with antibiotics at times, but more often than not, the pus needs to be drained out surgically.
How To Prevent Appendicitis ?
- It is not possible to prevent appendicitis as it can strike anyone. However, it is believed that a high fiber diet can help reduce the risk of developing this condition. So try to include a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Is it contagious?
- Appendicitis is not a communicable disease, so there is no way a caregiver or anyone around a patient is exposed to any risk.
Home Remedies :
- There are some home remedies that can help treat mild cases of appendicitis, but it is advisable to visit the doctor on spotting the very first symptom. Anyway, here are some home remedies that are believed to be effective, especially in preventing this condition:
- Have a cup of ginseng tea twice daily, as it is believed to have a calming effect on the pain and inflammation
- Mint can also help relieve appendicitis pain
- One tablespoon of green gram soaked in water should be taken thrice daily
- Honey and lemon juice can help provide relief from indigestion during appendicitis
- Constipation can make things worse for those suffering from appendicitis, hence having a high fiber diet is extremely necessary
- A mix of cucumber and carrot juice is also believed to be beneficial for those suffering from appendicitis
- Drinking tea made from fenugreek seeds helps prevent appendicitis, as it prevents the accumulation of excess mucus and intestinal waste
- A decoction of basil leaves can be given to an appendicitis patient if he/she is suffering from fever
It is not very clear whether the appendix has an important role to play in the functioning of the body. In fact, no long term or major problem has been diagnosed in people who had to undergo appendectomy. However, it is important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any symptom, however minor it may seem.