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If you have ever had a stomach ache so bad that you could hardly stand the pain? You may have thought it was just a bad case of gastro, or an upset stomach. You might have assumed that it was nothing to worry about and that it would sort itself out soon enough. However, what if there was something more serious happening in your body? You could be experiencing the symptoms of appendicitis.
Appendicitis is a disease affecting the appendix – a small pouch attached to the beginning of the large intestine or colon. It is not as well known as many other diseases and is not always spoken about. However, it is one of the leading causes of acute abdominal pain in young adults. Here are some useful facts about appendicitis and how to spot if you are at risk.
What Is Appendicitis?
Appendicitis is a bacterial infection of the appendix due to obstruction of the normal flow of faecal matter (the official medical term for poop). The source of the blockage is often undigested food that creates a build-up, leading to an infection. The infection causes swelling, potential ruptures, and pus. If it is not treated, it can spread to the abdominal wall – which is not good news.
There are specific symptoms of appendicitis, and it’s very important to take note of them.
The appendix is a finger-shaped pouch connected to the large intestine. It is located on the lower right side of the abdomen, and normally helps with the digestive process. If it becomes blocked or inflamed, it can cause a rupture, resulting in infection and severe abdominal pain. If the infection spreads to the rest of the abdomen, the condition is called peritonitis.
Warning Signs And Symptoms Of Appendicitis
- Abdominal Pain that starts in the lower right side of the abdomen and then moves to the left lower side. The pain will also migrate to the back and can be very intense and sudden.
- Nausea, Vomiting, Loss Of Appetite, Constipation, Or Diarrhoea can be signs of appendicitis.
- Unexplained Fever And Chills; if the body’s immune system is trying to fight off the infection, you may have a fever. Use First Aid techniques to lower the fever so that the person does not pass out or lose consciousness.
- A Change In Urination Pattern; if you urinate less frequently than usual, this may be a sign that something is not right (especially for women).
- Low Back Pain That Moves To The Abdomen; is often a symptom of appendicitis in pregnant women.
- Feeling Very Tired And Weak, as an infected appendix can take a lot of energy from the body.
How To Know For Sure If You Have Appendicitis?
- A doctor can diagnose appendicitis by performing a physical exam, taking a medical history, reviewing the symptoms and ordering lab and imaging tests.
- If you are experiencing symptoms of appendicitis, the doctor will likely order an ultrasound or CT scan.
- Ultrasound images of the abdomen can reveal abnormalities in the wall of the appendix.
- CT scans produce clearer images than ultrasound, but both are good ways to check for appendicitis.
- The doctor will also order a blood test to rule out other causes for the symptoms.
- If the doctor suspects appendicitis, they will likely recommend surgery to remove the appendix.
- After an operation to remove appendicitis, a doctor will give you an after-care guide.
When Should You See A Doctor?
You should see a doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms of appendicitis. These include (but are not limited to) abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, or constipation. You should also see a doctor if you notice any warning signs of appendicitis.
If you are experiencing severe abdominal pain, especially if it is accompanied by nausea, vomiting and a change in urination pattern, you should go to the emergency room. If you are experiencing severe abdominal pain but are unsure if it is a case of appendicitis, you can always call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
If you think you might have appendicitis and you have a milder case of the symptoms, you can also call your doctor’s office to make an appointment. Your doctor will likely recommend a diagnostic test or lab work to rule out other conditions for your symptoms.
When Should You Go To The Emergency Room?
The most important symptom indicating that you should visit the emergency room is abdominal pain. If you are experiencing pain that is severe enough to interfere with your daily activities, you should head to the local ER – particularly if the pain grows worse rather than letting up, or you are also experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Pain that starts in your lower right side and then moves to the left lower side
- Abdominal pain that does not go away or gets worse after you eat
- Extremely high fever accompanied by vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that last for more than 24 hours without any improvement or signs of getting better
- Pain or discomfort that interferes with your ability to walk, move or otherwise participate in daily activities
- Worsening vomiting or diarrhoea
Risk Factors For Appendicitis
Anyone can get appendicitis, but certain factors increase the risk of developing this condition. Most people who have appendicitis have no known risk factors. Some possible risk factors include:
- Having A Family History Of Appendicitis: People who have a first-degree relative who has had appendicitis have a higher risk of developing it.
- Having A Diet That Is High In Fat And Low In Fibre: This can cause undigested food to accumulate in the appendix resulting in an infection.
- Having A Diet Low In Iron Or Vitamin B12: This can also lead to an accumulation of undigested food in the appendix.
- Being Over The Age Of 30: The average age of people who develop appendicitis is 15-24 years old, but it can also affect people over 30.
- Having An Infection In The Pelvic Region: In rare cases, an infection in the pelvic region can spread to the appendix.
- Having A Pelvic Procedure: People who have had a pelvic procedure, including a hysterectomy or surgery to remove the ovaries, have an increased risk of appendicitis.
- A Weakened Immune System: This can make you more likely to develop an infection in the appendix.
How To Reduce Your Risk Of Appendicitis?
If you have appendicitis, it can be treated surgically by removing the appendix. This is a reasonably routine surgery (your body doesn’t need an appendix to function) which prevents the issue from occurring again.
Other ways to treat appendicitis include taking antibiotics and pain relievers. There is no guaranteed way to prevent appendicitis, but you can reduce your risk by following a healthy diet:
- Eat Lots Of Fibre And Whole Grains: This will help to keep your digestive system working properly and reduce the risk of appendicitis.
- Eat Iron-rich Foods: This will help to prevent iron deficiency, which can lead to an accumulation of undigested food in the appendix.
- Eat Plenty Of Fruits And Vegetables: These foods will provide your body with vitamins and minerals that will keep you healthy and help you to avoid infections.
In The End
Appendicitis is a common abdominal disease that is often accompanied by severe pain in the lower right abdomen. It is important to seek medical attention if you think you may have appendicitis. A doctor will perform tests and exams to help them determine if your pain is caused by appendicitis or something else.
If you are experiencing abdominal pain, you should contact your doctor. If your pain is accompanied by nausea and vomiting, you should go to the emergency room immediately. You can also prevent appendicitis by getting your appendix removed if you have had recurrent bouts of appendicitis.