What is appendicitis? What are the causes, symptoms, complications and prevention of appendicitis? Information on appendicitis.
The disease and its causes
Appendicitis is an inflammatory disease of the appendix. It can occur at any age but appears most often in young adults of both sexes.
The exact cause is unknown, but one of the explanations offered is the bacterial cause, that is, bacterial infection elsewhere in the body may be carried by the blood or by food to the appendix. A more acceptable theory is based on a mechanical cause, in which the appendix is blocked, usually by stool or, rarely, by swallowed foreign bodies. Occasionally worms may lodge in the appendix and cause infection. In all cases the symptoms are the same; the appendix is infected and swollen, and acts like an abscess on any part of the body.
The accompanying Medi-Graph diagrams one specific appendicitis attack. However, it must be emphasized that there is no typical case of acute appendicitis. The appendix may be in an unusual location and the area of pain may be completely different from that described. Occasionally the pain is located on the left side of the abdomen. For very old people appendicitis may be almost painless. Since it is difficult to make a diagnosis, no increasing abdominal pain should be disregarded.
The common complication is rupture of the appendix. When this happens the infection can spread to the membrane lining of the abdomen. The resulting peritonitis can severely infect the whole abdominal area. Before the rupture there is a great increase in pain and a spread of the area of pain.
Another complication is that the appendix may perforate and an abscess form in the area of the infection. This may burst into other organs or even open through the skin surface in the form of a fistula. Abscess of the liver and abscess below the right diaphragm also are possible complications.
There is no way to prevent appendicitis. Once the attack begins, prompt medical care and surgery are essential in order to avoid serious complications and speed recovery. The patient should avoid taking any laxatives, because they can cause the infected appendix to rupture. Ice packs may ease the pain, and even slow the process, but surgery is the only cure. So-called chronic appendicitis, in which there are repeated attacks, is very unusual, and most physicians do not believe such a condition exists.
***This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a doctor warning or recommendation.