Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix – a small finger-like shaped organ attached where the small intestine meets the large intestine in the lower abdomen. In the past, it was thought that the appendix served no function in the human body. However, new research suggests that the appendix functions as a secondary immune organ and stores healthy gut bacteria for the lower intestinal tract. The inflammation of the appendix occurs usually due to a blockage of some sort that causes the bacteria inside the small tube to multiply and cause pressure to build on the abdomen. The condition can be very painful and seriously life-threatening if the appendix ruptures. Appendicitis is the most common abdominal emergency needing surgical intervention with more than 10,000 people requiring treatment each year. Teenagers and people in their 20s commonly suffer from appendicitis, but it can happen at any age.
At first, the symptoms of appendicitis may be mistaken for other conditions. Constipation, ulcerative colitis, stomach lesions, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and a host of other stomach maladies all have similar symptoms. These include:
- Pain, sometimes sharp in the area of the lower right side of the abdomen
- Reduced appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Fever ranging from 99.0° F to 102.0° F
- No passing of gas or bowel movement
- Pain in the rectum
- Pain with urination
Infants and children can have different symptoms with appendicitis. They may not complain of pain in a specific area but may be tender throughout their body. In older adults and pregnant women, the stomach pain may not be as severe nor as localized (that is, the lower right side of the abdomen). Pregnant women can also have back or flank pain with the pain shifting upward (on the right side) after the first trimester.Remember, any form of severe abdominal pain should be evaluated in the emergency room right away.
Remember, any form of severe abdominal pain should be evaluated in the emergency room right away.