Appendicitis occurs when the appendix, a small pouch that’s attached to the large intestine, gets infected. This can lead to swelling, extreme pain and other unpleasant symptoms.
Causes of Appendicitis
The infection and swelling of the appendix that occurs with appendicitis happens because of an obstruction in the opening of the appendix, called the appendiceal lumen. This obstruction causes mucus to back up in the appendix, leading to the bacteria normally in the appendix greatly multiplying. The obstruction can be caused by something that clogs the appendix, like feces or parasites, or by trauma to the abdomen, enlarged lymph tissue or another disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Symptoms of Appendicitis
Anyone can get appendicitis, but the condition occurs most frequently in people from ages 10 to 30. The symptoms are often a telltale sign that something is wrong and can be easily identified as appendicitis by a doctor. The most prominent symptom, and the first one to occur, is extreme abdominal pain. This pain often begins near the belly button, and then begins to move lower in the abdomen. The pain will typically increase as time goes by. Appendicitis can cause other symptoms, as well, including abdominal swelling, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Once appendicitis occurs, the only recommended treatment is the surgical removal of the appendix. This is a fairly routine, safe procedure, and your body functions just fine without the appendix. It’s very important to identify appendicitis when it first shows symptoms and have it removed. If the appendix bursts, the infection can spread throughout the abdomen and cause potentially life-threatening complications.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; American Academy of Pediatrics
Antibiotics may be a safe alternative to surgery for certain cases of appendicitis.