Causes and symptoms of appendix/appendicitis

Appendicitis is the condition characterized by the presence of inflammation in the appendix. Symptoms of appendicitis include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Appendicitis is diagnosed through physical examination, lab tests, and imaging techniques.

Types

Following are the types of appendicitis:

  1. Chronic appendicitis: When the examination of the appendix of the patient suffering from appendicitis is done, sometimes it is revealed that the damage to the tissue is occurring from a long period. This includes thickening and scarring of the appendix. The condition is also accompanied by chronic inflammation and persistent abdominal pain.
  2. Recurrent appendicitis: In recurrent appendicitis, the patient feels the symptoms only at the time of appendicitis flare. The patient first not experience symptoms between the attacks. Further, the diagnosis is normal in the attack-free period.
  3. Acute appendicitis: This type of appendicitis is caused due to sudden inflammation of the appendix. It is caused when the bacteria present in the gut infects the wall of the appendix. If unmanaged, it may lead to life-threatening complications including peritonitis.
  4. Sub-acute appendicitis: Sub-acute appendicitis is the stage before acute appendicitis. Any obstruction in the lumen is relieved on its own leading to the disappearance of symptoms. The symptoms may reappear in sub-acute appendicitis.
  5. Non-obstructive appendicitis: Non-obstructive appendicitis develops without the obstruction of the lumen. This type of appendicitis may lead to acute, sub-acute or recurrent appendicitis.

Causes

  1. Obstruction in the appendix: When the mouth of the appendix is blocked due to stool, the bacteria in the stool multiplies rapidly leading to inflammation and pain. This is the most common reason for appendicitis.
  2. Pollution: There have been some studies which indicate that short-term exposure to the drastic level of air pollution increases the incidence of appendicitis.
  3. Infection: Infection is also one of the important reasons for appendicitis. The gut flora present in the gastrointestinal tract multiplies in the appendix and the inner lining of the appendix becomes inflames. Further, the tissue is filled with pus leading to pain.
  4. Obstruction in lumen: Any obstruction in the lumen also increases the risk of development of appendicitis.
  5. Inflammatory bowel disease: In some cases, inflammatory bowel disease is found to be the causative factor for appendicitis.
  6. Abdominal trauma: If there is any abdominal trauma that causes damage to the appendix, appendicitis may develop. Abdominal trauma may cause inflammation and pain in the appendix.
  7. Tumor: Cancer in the appendix also causes appendicitis. The cells of the appendix divide rapidly and cause inflammation in the appendix.

Symptoms

Following are the symptoms related to appendicitis:

  1. Loss of appetite
  2. Swelling in abdomen
  3. Pain in abdomen
  4. Nausea
  5. Fever
  6. Not able to pass gas
  7. Constipation
  8. Diarrhea
  9. Weakness
  10. Malaise
  11. Pain worsens during movement
  12. Severe pain during coughing and intense breathing

How to diagnose

Following are the diagnostic methods adopted by the doctor for diagnosing appendicitis:

  1. Physical examination: As the abdomen is the site of pain related to various diseases, thus the physician will require specific information about the site of your pain in order to accurately diagnose appendicitis. This is done by applying pressure on the abdomen for identifying the exact site of pain. Various signs such as Rovsing’s sign, Psoas sign, and Obturator sign indicate the presence of appendicitis.
  2. Lab tests: Various lab tests are done to evaluate the indicators for appendicitis. A blood test is generally done to look for the number of white blood cells which indicates the presence of infection. Further, blood test also analyzes the level of electrolytes and minerals in the blood. Urine analysis is done to exclude urinary tract infection and kidney stones as a cause of pain.
  3. Imaging techniques: Various imaging techniques are applied for diagnosis of appendicitis. Ultrasound is done to reveal the presence of lumen blockage, burst appendix or inflammation in the appendix. Other imaging techniques used for diagnosis are Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Computed Tomography.
  4. Medical history: Physician will also evaluate the presence of any medical condition, medications taken by the patient and the history and frequency of abdominal pain.

Risk neglecting Appendicitis

If the appendicitis is neglected, it may cause the following conditions:

  1. Peritonitis: When the appendicitis is not managed or not removed through surgery, the appendix may burst. This will cause the spread of bacteria to healthy tissues. The peritoneum is the thin lining on the inner side of the abdomen. Bacterial infection in peritoneum causes inflammation and the condition is known as peritonitis. Peritonitis, if not managed, caused life-threatening consequences.
  2. Abscess: When the appendix bursts, the bacteria move to the other healthy tissues. The immune system of the body fight against these bacteria and there is a pus formation around the appendix.

Stages

On the basis of the severity of the disease, stages of appendicitis are divided into three stages:

  1. Uncomplicated appendicitis: During this stage, the patient does not feel any symptoms although the inflammation and infection are present in the appendix.
  2. Sub-acute appendicitis: In sub-acute appendicitis, though the patient feels symptoms, those symptoms are temporary. Appendicitis diagnosed in the sub-acute stage is easy to manage.
  3. Acute appendicitis: In this stage, the patient experiences severe and prolonged pain and inflammation. The risk of appendix bursting is very high at this stage.

Foods

Following foods should be incorporated into the diet of the patient suffering from appendicitis:

  1. Coconut water
  2. Porridge
  3. White rice
  4. Buttermilk
  5. Pulses
  6. Carrots
  7. Potatoes
  8. Citrus fruits such as orange
  9. Fish and eggs

Prevention tips

  1. Take a healthy diet
  2. Eat food rich in fibers
  3. Spot the early signs and consult your doctor
  4. Manage stress levels
  5. Perform exercises that aids digestion
  6. Improve your immunity by taking Vitamin C rich foods and zinc.

When to see a doctor

Immediately call the doctor if:

  • You feel severe abdominal pain.
  • You feel tired and feverish.
  • You sense urge to vomit.
  • You experience symptoms of appendicitis such as dull and cramping pain in the abdominal area.