When is a tummy ache a minor ailment or something more serious? Our appendix serves no vital purpose, but the small, narrow pouch that sits next to the large intestine can still cause problems. An obstruction caused by food waste or even a gastrointestinal infection can cause the inflammation that leads to appendicitis. Appendicitis occurs when the inflamed appendix swells and becomes infected. There don’t appear to be any risk factors for appendicitis and it is not preventable.
Appendicitis can strike anyone, although it occurs most often in people between 10 and 30 years old. Approximately 8% of people get appendicitis sometime during their life. For many parents, appendicitis is often one of the first diseases that come to mind when their children complain of stomach pain.
8 Signs of Appendicitis:
- Severe pain on the lower right side of the abdomen. The pain usually starts in the middle of the abdomen near the belly button and moves to the lower right side as the pain becomes sharper. Walking, talking or coughing can cause the pain to get worse.
- A low grade fever
- Abdominal swelling
- Loss of appetite
Pain in the abdomen is not uncommon and each symptom individually can indicate a number of other conditions. However, since appendicitis can strike quickly, it’s important to contact your doctor if any of these other symptoms accompany abdominal pain. Tests and procedures used to diagnose appendicitis include:
- A physical exam to assess the abdominal pain
- A blood test to check for a high white blood cell count that might indicate an infection
- A urine test to rule out kidney stones or a urinary tract infection
- An x-ray of the abdomen
Treating appendicitis usually involves surgery to remove the appendix. Appendectomies are among the most common emergency operations performed by surgeons. Patients who have had their appendix removed should expect to spend one to two days in the hospital following surgery, along with a few weeks of recovery involving rest and limited physical activity to help the body heal properly. If left untreated, the appendix can rupture and infect surrounding abdominal organs.
Understanding the signs of appendicitis can help avoid a misdiagnosis or a delay in treatment. If you think you or your child might have appendicitis, contact your doctor immediately. Try to avoid eating or drinking anything unless your doctor tells you it is safe to do so. Abdominal pain so severe that you can’t sit still or find a comfortable position requires immediate medical attention. To locate a physician or hospital near you, wherever you are, download the free iTriage mobile healthcare app from the app stores, or visit www.iTriageHealth.com .