Contributed by the National Digestive Diseases Information
Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix, a small pouch
attached to the cecum, the beginning of the colon, on the lower
right side of the abdomen. The appendix is not necessary for
life, but it can become diseased. If untreated, an inflamed
appendix can burst, causing infection and even death.
Appendicitis can affect people at any age. It is most common in
people ages 10 to 30.
The cause of appendicitis is usually unknown. It may occur after
a viral infection in the digestive tract or when the opening
connecting the large intestine and appendix is blocked. The
inflammation can cause infection, a blood clot, or rupture of
the appendix. Because of the risk of rupture, appendicitis is
considered an emergency. Anyone with symptoms needs to see a
The Symptoms of Appendicits
The Symptoms of appendicitis include
The pain usually begins near the navel and moves down and to the
right. The pain becomes worse when moving, taking deep breaths,
coughing, sneezing, and being touched in the area.
- pain in the right side of the abdomen
- inability to pass gas
- low fever that begins after other symptoms
- abdominal swelling
Not everyone has all the symptoms. People with symptoms of
appendicitis should not take laxatives or enemas to relieve
constipation because these medicines could cause the appendix to
burst. Pain medicine can mask symptoms that the doctor needs to
know about, so it should not be used before consulting a doctor
when appendicitis is suspected.
The doctor bases an appendicitis diagnosis on symptoms, a
physical exam, blood tests to check for signs of infection such
as a high white blood cell count, and urine tests to rule out a
urinary tract infection. Usually doctors use CT scan or
ultrasound to see whether the appendix looks inflamed.
If the diagnosis of appendicitis is not certain, people with
equivocal signs of appendicitis may be watched and sometimes
treated with antibiotics. People with definite appendicitis have
surgery to remove the appendix, which is called an appendectomy.
Doctors may use laparoscopic surgery for appendectomy. This
technique involves making several tiny cuts in the abdomen and
inserting a miniature camera and surgical instruments. The
surgeon then removes the appendix with the instruments, so there
is usually no need to make a large incision in the abdomen.
People can live a normal life without their appendix--changes in
diet, exercise, or other lifestyle factors are not necessary.