What is Appendicitis?

Appendix in the human body is situated in between the large intestine and small intestine, in the form of a thin tube about 4 inches long, on the lower right side of the stomach. The specific function of the Appendix was initially not known. Appendicitis is the condition when the Appendix is inflamed. 

What is the function of Appendix in the human body?

Previously when not much research was done, it was assumed that the Appendix did not have a function and was useless. But later researches have shown that there is a role played by this small worm like organ which has changed its shape and shrunk in size, and  the  role is that of a ‘Storehouse of Good Bacteria’ which can fight infections. The location of the Appendix is near the stomach and the digestive tract. 

What is the role played by the Appendix?

The structure of Appendix is normally found in mammals according to studies conducted by experts. The fact that the Appendix changed its shape reveals a secret about it. When the digestive tract [gut] is infected by bad bacteria the good bacteria in the Appendix hide themselves inside the Appendix and once the infection is gone, they re-emerge to multiply themselves and thus the quantity of good bacteria in the ‘Gut’ increases.

How does one get Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is the condition when the Appendix is swollen, inflamed or filled with pus. This condition can happen when the digestive tract is infected  with bad bacteria passed on from eating contaminated food or any other reason like a piece of stool getting stuck in the appendix and the bad bacteria in it infecting the Appendix to inflame and thereby cause pus to fill in this finger- like pouch shaped organ. When the Appendix is infected and causes discomfort, the condition developed is called Appendicitis. 

What causes Appendicitis?

The Appendix is situated near the right side of the abdomen near the Colon. The most likely causes of Appendicitis are:

  1. Infection: If any infection is caused in the stomach, and if the infection reaches the Appendix, then it results in Appendicitis.
  2. Obstruction: If the appendix is blocked by a piece of hard stool, then the decay of the stool and the formation of bad bacteria in the Appendix causes its inflammation and pus resulting in Appendicitis.

Scientist and Researchers have claimed to find a link between high levels of pollution and inflammation of Appendix.


What are the signs and symptoms of Appendicitis?

In the beginning there is a pain in the stomach in any part of the stomach. But after some time, there is a feeling of intense pain in a specific area which is the lower right side of the abdomen. Following are the accompanying symptoms:

  1. Increasing and worsening pain.
  2. Pain when Coughing and Sneezing.
  3. Nausea and Vomiting.
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Painful when passing of wind or farting.
  6. Fever
  7. Constipation
  8. Loss of Appetite.

Other conditions may also have similar symptoms but Appendicitis is accompanied by intense pain in lower right abdomen.


How is Appendicitis diagnosed?

As there are other conditions which display similar symptoms; your General Practitioner may suggest a physical examination by applying pressure to see if the pain worsens.

Presence of typical signs and symptoms will determine Appendicitis.

  • If simple methods fail, then the following tests are given:
  • Blood Test to check for infection
  • Urine Test to check for presence of a particular protein indicative of Appendicitis.
  • A CT, MRI or Ultra Sound Scan [3D IMAGING] is conducted to see whether the appendix is swollen. In adults Color Doppler ultrasound is used to determine the severity of the Appendicitis.


What is the treatment for Appendicitis?

Sometimes the doctor may suggest Antibiotics if the infection is mild but this rarely happens and surgery is advised, like:
Appendectomy : Is the traditional method of surgery where an incision or cut is made and the inflamed appendix is removed.
Laparoscopy : Is the recent method where there is minimum invasion and a thin tube like canal fitted with a camera is inserted in the body and the appendix is removed out.
Recent studies have shown that traditional surgery is preferable than laparoscopy as Laparoscopy increases cost and can create complications later whereas a traditional appendectomy can help clean the area and prevent infections.
Surgery is always more effective than Antibiotics, whether immediate or delayed.

What are the complications of Appendicitis?

If the inflamed appendix releases the infection after rupturing, into the abdomen, then the patient may develop a condition called Peritonitis where the infection may spread to the Peritoneum which is the membrane lining of the inner abdomen and the abdominal organs, due to which the bowel movement of the patient is blocked and fever develops and chances are that the patient may go into shock.

Abscess [infected liquid] may seep out of the Appendix into the other organs and may again cause peritonitis. Abscess is treated with Antibiotics or can be drained out surgically by a tube. 

Can Appendicitis be prevented? Is it fatal?

Studies have shown that where people have a high content of fibre in their diets, the chances of developing Appendicitis is less as fibre helps bowel movements and thereby prevents the entry of any piece of stool into the appendix. So a good diet full of fibre is recommended.  Avoiding any intake of food which may lead to infection is also advisable. Immediate visit to the Doctor is suggested if any signs and symptoms are noticed.

Appendicitis is hardly fatal nowadays due to advanced medical research and treatment, but immediate seeking of medical help is of utmost necessity as delaying of treatment may lead to life threatening complications.

Appendicitis is not hereditary and not fatal but sometimes can develop into Appendix cancer if not diagnosed and treated early. Yester-year diva and Actress Audrey Hepburn died of Appendix Cancer- a rare condition. 

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