Appendicitis can strike at any moment without any warning symptoms. Acute appendicitis is one of the reasons that patients rush to the emergency room complaining of severe abdominal pain. Appendicitis affects everyone differently. Some may have an attack of appendicitis without any symptoms while another may not be able to crawl out of bed because of pain and malaise. Let's take a look at this organ and the condition that leads to surgery.
Your appendix does not have a known function besides its tendency to cause trouble. It is a narrow tube about 3 to 4 inches in length that projects from the front of the large intestine. Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix. The causes of appendicitis are uncertain but it is believed to be caused by a blockage from fecal material or another foreign material. Regardless of the cause, the result is the same. Bacteria multiply and cause infection of the appendix.
Symptoms of Appendicitis
Symptoms of appendicitis may not occur in all patients. Some may just have a combination of these symptoms. A classic symptom of appendicitis is sudden and vague pain around the umbilical area. The pain then travels slowly to the right lower abdomen toward the right hip within 24 hours. Classic symptoms include nausea, fever, and frequent vomiting. The patient may have poor appetite. The pain may become intense and sharp within a few hours. Movement such as sitting up or walking can make the pain worse. Appendicitis does affect your bowel movements. Straining from constipation may be painful and uncomfortable because it puts pressure in the abdominal area. The patient may also have constipation and diarrhea.
Early symptoms of appendicitis can mimic other conditions such as gastroenteritis. Blood analysis of the white blood count is often done to check for white blood cells. Patients that have appendicitis may have an elevated level of white blood cells. However, it is important to note that normal levels can occur in an individual that has appendicitis. These are the patients that are frequently misdiagnosed. There isn't an exact blood test that can give confirmation of appendicitis. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for a patient suffering from appendicitis to be sent home with a diagnosis of stomach flu or an ovarian cyst.
After a blood analysis of the white blood cells is done, a physician may order more tests to confirm the diagnosis. A Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the abdomen and pelvis are done. X-Rays of the abdomen may be taken to rule out other common conditions such as constipation that could be causing the abdominal pain. Ultrasound of the abdomen and pelvis may be ordered to check for possible ovarian cysts that could be causing the problem. The appendix often can not be seen on an ultrasound.
Treatment and Complications
Once appendicitis is diagnosed, the patient needs to have surgery to have his appendix removed immediately. Without treatment an appendix can rupture and cause a life-threatening infection called peritonitis. Peritonitis is an infection of the peritoneum which is a clear membrane that covers the abdominal organs. A ruptured appendix can cause infection in the ovaries and fallopian tubes that can lead to infertility. Septicemia, a life-threatening infection of the bloodstream can also occur.