Ruptured appendix is a true medical emergency. If not treated immediately, it can lead to life-threatening complications, particularly peritonitis. Early recognition of appendicitis is key to the prevention of ruptured appendix. It is important to learn the symptoms of appendicitis so that it can be treated before it gets worse. The symptoms of appendicitis may mimic those of other medical conditions (such as urinary or kidney stones), so misdiagnosis is not uncommon.
What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis refers to the inflammation of the appendix. The appendix is a small, narrow organ that is attached to the large intestine (cecum) located in the lower right side of the abdomen. The appendix has a hollow tube-like pouch, called cul-de-sac, which opens into the large intestine.
Appendicitis occurs when the cul-de-sac gets blocked with a food particle or solid stool (fecolith), parasites, or inflammation of adjacent lymph nodes. Once the appendix is blocked, it can become inflamed and bacteria can grow in it. If the infected appendix is not removed, it can rupture and spread the infection to surrounding tissues. An inflamed appendix can burst 24 to 72 hours after the initial onset of symptoms. When the appendix ruptures, the individual may experience a temporary relief of pain. However, the pain can gradually peak up and spread across the whole abdomen. Temperature may also rise to as high as 104°F (40°C).
Infection caused by a ruptured appendix can be very serious – it can lead to abscess or pus formation in the intestine, or infect the inner lining of the abdomen (peritonitis). Antibiotic therapy and/or surgery must be initiated immediately to prevent these major complications.
Although appendix can occur to people of any age, it most commonly affects younger population – ages 11 to 20 years old. Appendicitis is also among the most common reasons of abdominal surgery.
What are the symptoms of appendicitis?
The initial symptoms of appendicitis are a mild fever and abdominal pain, particularly around the navel or on the lower part of the abdomen. In fact, appendicitis can be easily mistaken as a simple stomachache. But compared with simple stomachache, the pain associated with appendicitis, usually worsens and moves to the lower right side of the abdomen. Soon after, the individual may experience vomiting, loss of appetite, and constipation or diarrhea. The individual may also have bloated or swollen abdomen.
The symptoms of appendicitis may vary depending on the individual. If you suspect someone has appendicitis, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Avoid giving pain medications. Instruct the individual not to drink or eat anything unless instructed by the doctor.
At present, there is no definitive treatment as well as a way to prevent appendicitis, but with current advances in medical diagnostic techniques and antibiotics, most cases can be easily identified and treated without complications.