The appendix is a closed-ended, narrow tube up to several inches in length that is attached to the cecum (the first part of the colon). No one is quite sure what the actual function of the appendix is, and it has been proven that a human being can live without it without any consequences. Appendicitis is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the appendix. It is treated as a medical emergency that needs prompt surgery to remove the appendix. If it’s left untreated, it can burst, spilling infectious materials from the colon into the abdominal cavity. This, in turn, may lead to other, more severe health problems.
Causes of Appendicitis
The actual cause of appendicitis is yet unknown, but it is
thought that it begins with the opening from the appendix into the colon becomes
blocked. The blockage may happen because of
the build-up of thick mucus within the appendix or stool that might enter the
appendix from the cecum. The mucus or stool hardens, becomes rock-like, and
blocks the opening. This leads to an inflammation in the appendix.
There is yet another theory that says that the cause of this condition is a rupture in the appendix wall. This rupture causes bacteria to spread outside the appendix, thus causing an inflammation. However, the cause of such rupture is unclear.
Symptoms of Appendicitis
The symptoms of this condition are, in general, the same as in men. The only exception may be pregnant women that might not experience some of the normal symptoms. The common symptoms of appendicitis are: pain around the navel that might shift to the lower right abdomen (and it also becomes sharper over several hours), tenderness of the lower abdomen, low-grade fever, loss of appetite, nausea accompanied by vomiting, abdominal swelling, constipation or diarrhea, etc. It is important that one consult a doctor as soon as the first symptoms have been spotted. If left untreated, the appendix might burst, causing the bacteria to rapidly spread all over the lower abdomen. This may lead to other complications, such as peritonitis (a serious inflammation of the abdominal cavity’s lining), that can be fatal unless quickly treated with antibiotics. The only way to treat appendicitis is to surgically remove the appendix. This can be done in two ways: with an open surgery or laparoscopic surgery.
Appendicitis in Pregnant Women
Appendicitis is far trickier to diagnose in pregnant women. This is because many of its symptoms are usually also connected to the pregnancy. Pregnant women may not experience the pain in the lower right side of the abdomen. This is why, any abdominal pain that has been experienced during pregnancy should be considered as a potential symptom of appendicitis. Treatment is much easier if the appendix has not ruptured.