Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix – a small finger-shaped pouch on the right side of the abdomen, connected to the colon. It is no bigger than your little finger, but can still cause intense pain. Appendicitis is cured surgically by removing the appendix. It is one of the most common surgical emergencies and requires a short hospital stay. Full recovery takes 1-3 weeks.
The classic sign of appendicitis is acute pain that starts around the navel, then shifts to the lower right abdomen. Appendicitis is most common in 10-30 year olds, but anyone can suffer.
In most cases, there is no clear cause for appendicitis. It can sometimes occur if the intestine is blocked by food or faeces. In more unusual cases, appendicitis can be triggered by external influences, such as a blow to the abdomen.
Appendicitis often appears first in the form of pain around the navel, which moves down to the lower right abdomen after a few hours. This is a typical pain move for appendicitis. But not everyone experiences it – symptoms of appendicitis can be diffuse, especially in children, pregnant women and older people.
Many people feel a generalized weakness. Coughing and movements usually make the pain more acute and you may want to lean forward as you stand and walk. If it hurts on the right side of the abdomen when you press the left, it can also indicate appendicitis since the peritoneum covers all the intestines and internal organs. When it becomes inflamed, the entire abdomen can become hard and tense.
- pain around the navel, which moves down to the lower right abdomen after a few hours
- gases, tense abdomen
- diarrhea or constipation
- nausea and vomiting
- decreased appetite.
Bear in mind that abdominal pains on the right side may be caused by something other than appendicitis. Gallstones, enlarged liver associated with glandular fever and IBS can also cause pain on the right side, often in the upper abdomen. Ovarian disorders usually hurt lower, to the left or right side.
Sometimes the appendix can be so inflamed that it bursts, and then you need emergency care. A ruptured appendix can lead to peritonitis. Children under 7 and people over 70 are affected more often than others. If the small bowel has ruptured, the pain may come and go or even disappear for a few minutes or hours. Then it returns, often worse than before, with rising fever.
Prevention and protection
There’s no sure way to prevent appendicitis. But you might be able to lower your risk of developing it by eating a fiber-rich diet.
Appendicitis is usually treated surgically. Most people who undergo a surgery have had symptoms for less than two days and the procedure is generally done only a few hours after the doctor has made the diagnosis. In the case of a ruptured appendix, faster measures are required to prevent the peritoneum from becoming inflamed. In special cases, appendicitis is treated only with antibiotics, without surgery.
When to consult a doctor
If you have abdominal pain and suspected appendicitis, you should contact your doctor or healthcare provider. If you experience sudden and intense pain in your stomach, you should seek urgent care.
How APPOTEK can help
In case of sudden or intense pain in the stomach, you should seek emergency care.
However if you have mild stomach pains, APPOTEK can connect you with a nurse or doctor who can make an assessment based on your symptoms during the care meeting. You may then be referred for further treatment. Remember that appendicitis is time sensitive so if in doubt, always err of the side of caution and get help right away.