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Appendicitis -- early diagnosis and treatment is the key to fighting its complications

Written by Pooja Puri |Updated : February 25, 2015 6:10 AM IST

AppendicitisStomach pain or abdominal pain is one of the most common symptoms one experiences. Often ignored as an inane pain and one that will go away with time, there is a lot more that stomach pain can indicate. Apart from reasons like an infection or obstruction, appendicitis is a doctor's next best guess. A condition characterised by severe abdominal or stomach pain, it can quickly progress to a point where you might need emergency medical care. So, here is all you will need to know about appendicitis, its diagnosis, treatment and complications.

The appendix is small bag or pouch-like organ that is attached to the lower right hand side end of the large intestine (or caecum). Known as a mystery organ in our body, the need or exact function of the appendix is still quite unclear. Besides being unimportant, this organ, once infected and inflamed causes a lot of pain and discomfort eventually requiring immediate surgery.

AppeAppendix ndicitis can occur in any person and there is no particular reason for the infection. Usually a low fibre diet, hard stool and prolonged constipation are blamed for this kind of infection.

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Think you might be suffering from appendicitis? Here is how you can recognise it:

  • One of the most glaring symptoms of appendicitis is abdominal pain. The pain usually starts from the lower right side of the abdomen and gradually becomes severe, spreading around the belly button. These symptoms appear and become worse within the first 24 hours of onset.
  • McBurney pointAn indicator that doctors use to diagnose this condition is pain over the Mc Burney's point. This is a point present on the lower right hand side corner of the abdomen. You can easily identify it by drawing an imaginary line from the centre of your belly button, diagonally downwards towards the abdomen. The pain will usually be focused in this area and will be tender to touch.
  • Sudden movements may increase the pain. Things like coughing, sneezing, walking or climbing stairs may tend to worsen the pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting accompany pain and you may suffer from malaise and fever.
  • You may also suffer from hard stool or diarrhoea, and frequent urination. This happens in cases where the infection has reached the urinary tract. Read more about diarrhoea and constipation.
  • In some cases, the appendix may burst, when this happens you might experience momentary relief from the pain. But consider this the calm after the storm, once perforated; you will start experiencing severe pain and frequent pain and vomiting. Know this is a very serious condition and needs immediate medical attention. A perforated appendix can cause serious complications like septicaemia and even death.

Here is how the condition is diagnosed:

The initial diagnosis is based on a physical examination. But since symptoms vary from person to person and the condition is quite difficult to diagnose in elderly patients and children, your doctor may advice you to get the following tests:

  • Rectal examination: This test is done to check for tenderness around the rectum, which is commonly noticed in patients with appendicitis.
  • CT scan or Ultrasound of the abdomen might also be suggested to confirm the diagnosis. This step is usually avoided as the results of such tests take time to appear. And since time is of the essence in patients with appendicitis, doctors usually shy away from using these diagnostic techniques.

Your treatment options:

  • When diagnosed with appendicitis, the surgeon usually prefers to operate on the patient and remove the appendix as soon as possible. It is a short surgery where the appendix is removed and the small whole created in the large intestine is stitched to seal the opening. Now days with the advent of minimally invasive procedures, the procedure is simple without the need for a large incision. If you think that removing an organ just because it is infected seems too extreme know that the appendix is a vestigial (extra) organ that is not needed by the body.
  • In the case of a perforated or ruptured appendix, it might lead to spread of the infection to the lining of the gut. If your appendix has ruptured and an abscess has been formed, it is first treated with antibiotics to cure the infection and then the appendix is surgically removed.

Tips to prevent appendicitis:

Since there is no real reason for appendicitis, prevention only includes staying healthy, regulating your bowel movement and eating a diet that can help your intestines and digestive system healthy and balanced.

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