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Appendicitis info

Appendicitis: signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments

Appendicitis is a common medical condition which affects around eight percent of the American population. Signs and symptoms associated with the disease are often misunderstood as simple bouts of stomach aches. Appendicitis is easily treated by surgical removal of the appendix. Appendectomy is the only cure for this medical condition and no amount of medications can reverse the process. Education and information is vital in making a quick and accurate assessment. Life-threatening complications only arise when medical help is delayed.

The appendix is a worm-like appendage that is attached to the cecum or the first part of the large intestines. It is not associated with any known body functions and its purpose remains unclear. The appendix is not an essential organ and removing it does not harm the patient’s health. Contents secreted by the appendix are passed through a small opening called the appendiceal lumen. Because of the relatively small size of this opening, the appendix is prone to becoming obstructed.

Appendicitis requires immediate medical attention. Its symptoms are similar to normal stomach aches and if left untreated, it can result in a life-threatening complication.

The Appendix
The Appendix

Appendicitis is simply the inflammation of the appendix. The appendix is located at the first part of the intestine and materials called fecalith can obstruct the small opening causing decreased blood circulation and trapping secretions inside. Inflammation is mainly due to infection and accumulation of fluids inside the appendix. Sudden pain in the abdomen is the most common sign of appendicitis. Pain felt is similar to regular stomach aches but could be narrowed down based on the pain’s location. Appendicitis is an emergency medical condition and immediate surgery is needed.

Signs and Symptoms of Appendicitis

Signs and symptoms for appendicitis include sudden pain and loss of appetite. Patients suffering from appendicitis also manifest fevers and body weakness. Pain associated with appendicitis can be similar to regular stomach aches. The pain, however, unlike stomach ache pains, moves from one area to another area. Pain usually starts from the belly and ends in the lower right of the stomach area.

Early signs of Appendicits

Pain in the abdominal area is the earliest sign of possible appendicitis, here are some characteristics which can give you a better idea if a person is suffering from appendicitis:

  • Sudden and acute pain
  • Severe pain
  • Pains moves around (belly area to lower right abdominal area)
  • Pain that grows within hours
  • Pain that suddenly stops after hours of severe stomach aches

Dangerous Stage of Appendicitis

The most dangerous stage of appendicitis is when the pain suddenly stops. This means that the appendix has ruptured and spilled its contents into the abdominal cavity. The person suffering from appendicitis suddenly feels warm inside and all pain stops. It is important that people be educated about the classical signs of pain. Sudden relief of pain may be misunderstood that the worst of the disease is over, when it is actually a sign of a significantly deteriorating condition.

The taking of pain relievers for persons believed to be suffering from appendicitis is strongly discouraged. Pain relievers mask the symptoms of the disease and may lead to a wrong diagnosis.

Other signs and symptoms that accompany appendicitis are the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fever

Inflammation of the appendix is caused by infections. Pus builds up inside the appendix causing it to push against the walls of the appendix.  Fever is another tell-tale sign that a person might be suffering from appendicitis.

Assessment and Diagnostic methods for Appendicitis

Physical Examination

When a patient,  suspected of suffering from appendicitis is brought to a clinic or hospital, he is put through a series of physical examinations. The pain’s location and severity is assessed. A quick medical history is also taken to determine if the patient is susceptible to factors which may cause the disease. The patient is also assessed for fever; a  high temperature  means the patient is suffering from an infection.

Pain can be observed in several different ways:

  • Rebound tenderness. A doctor gently applies pressure to the patient’s abdomen and pain is felt upon release of pressure.
  • Psoas Sign. This is pain felt when a weight is applied on the right knee and patient is instructed to lift the right thigh.
  • Rovsing’s Sign. This is determined by applying pressure to the lower left of the abdomen and pain is reflected on the lower right of the abdomen.
  • Obturator Sign.  Positive results from this test show pain felt from moving the bent knee from left to right while a patient is lying down.

Laboratory Tests given for Appendicitis

Blood tests are ordered by the doctor to determine possible blood infection when the appendix has ruptured. Pregnancy tests are also ordered for women as the developing fetus may cause pressure to the abdomen and display similar symptoms to appendicitis.

Treatment and Medication for Appendicitis

Immediate removal of the appendix (appendectomy) is required for people found to be suffering from appendicitis. No amount of medications can reverse the infection and inflammation. The appendix is not an essential organ and removing the infected organ is the only way to decrease major life-threatening complications. Analgesics, which were strongly discouraged before the diagnosis of appendicitis, may now be introduced to decrease pain.

Complications of Appendicitis

The most severe complication associated with appendicitis is perforation. This is dangerous since contents of the ruptured appendix are introduced directly into the abdominal cavity exposing the different organs to infection. Emergency surgery is indicated and removal of all toxic contents is done. Perforation usually occurs 24 hours after onset of pain. A major indicator that the appendix has ruptured is when the severe pains suddenly cease.

Living after appendectomy

Patients who undergo appendectomy usually recover quickly. No major diet or lifestyle changes are required after removal of the appendix. The appendix is a non-essential organ and is not needed for normal body functions. Attachment of the appendix is through the large intestine, but it does not perform any digestive functions. Although changes in lifestyle are not required, maintaining optimum health through a balanced diet and regular exercise is necessary for preventing other diseases. Getting to know the classic signs and symptoms of appendicitis is important to give people a chance of preventing life-threatening complications of the disease.

written by, Ronald Uy RN

2009  H.I.C Digestive Health

Sources:

Appendicitis, Acute. Retrieved October 1, 2009 from emedicine:  http://emedicine.medscape.com

Appendectomy. Retrieved October 1, 2009 from SURGERYINFO.OR http://surgeryinfo.orgG: http://surgeryinfo.org

Appendicitis. Retrieved October 1, 2009 from MedlinePlus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov

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