In this age of scientific advancement and technology, scientists and doctors still do not know just why we have an appendix, especially when we can live just fine without it. The problems it can cause when inflamed, however, are quite serious and can be deadly left untreated. Being a part of the large intestine, doctors are not clear as to exactly why it would get infected or diseased, causing appendicitis. Appendicitis is not contagious and can occur to anyone, at any age, but is more common in people ages 10 to 30. It is the most common abdominal emergency that hospitals see today.
Appendicitis can be acute ( severe and sudden) or chronic (recurring inflamation). Symptoms of appendicitis include pain in the right side of the belly, fever, nausea and loss of appetite. The pain may worsen by moving, walking, sneezing or coughing. Oftentimes, the pain starts out in the central belly, then settles down in the right quadrant of the abdomen. When gentle pressure is applied to the area of the abdomen that hurts, it will feel tender. When the pressure is released, many times the pain will feel worse. If you lie on your side, pulling your knees to your chest, the pain may lessen.
Appendicitis is not always easy to diagnose, as its symptoms are very similar to other conditions such as an ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cysts and kidney stones. A good indication that it could be appendicitis is if the pain does not go away for 4 hours. If the pain is severe, get to a hospital immediately.
To diagnose appendicitis, a doctor will want a history of your symptoms and will perform a thorough examination of your abdomen. Your doctor may also follow up with a blood test, urine test, and imaging tests such as a CT Scan.
The only treatment available for acute (sudden or severe) appendicitis is surgery, where the appendix is removed in a procedure called an appendectomy. Without treatment, the appendix can rupture or burst, causing the infection to spread throughout the abdomen causing great pain, severe complications and even death.
If the appendix is removed and caught before it ruptures, patients usually spend one to two days in the hospital. When it does unfortunately rupture, you are sicker and your body will need a longer recovery time along with intravenous antibiotics. The hospital stay is lengthened to four to seven days.