The appendix is a narrow pouch, shaped like a finger, which is attached to the colon on the right side of the abdomen. Although the appendix does not seem to serve any purpose, sometimes, it can cause problems. When there is blockage in the appendix, it becomes pus-filled and inflamed, which leads to a condition called 'appendicitis'. If there is a continuation of the blockage, bacteria infects the affected tissue, and it starts dying due to a deficiency of blood supply, finally resulting in the appendix rupturing.
There are various symptoms, which can change in due course of time. At the very early stages, one of the main signs is a vague ache that occurs around the navel, which generally moves to the lower part of the abdomen, on the right side. The pain can become more acute and sharper as the nearby tissues get affected by the inflammation. Ultimately, the pain settles in the lower-right side of the abdomen, at an area referred to as the McBurney's point, which is about one-third of the distance from the right-pelvic bone to the navel. However, the location of the pain can differ, according to the position of the appendix and age. For example, pregnant women and children may feel the pain at different locations.
Causes that Make the Symptoms Worse
If gentle pressure is applied on the area where it hurts, it can feel tender. And as the pressure is released, especially if it is done suddenly, the pain will feel much worse, which is known as rebound tenderness. Pain and discomfort also has a tendency of getting worse if the affected person walks, coughs, or makes any other jolting movement. This is especially the case, if the infected appendix is in contact with the peritoneum, which is a transparent membrane that forms a lining in the abdominal cavity and covers the intestines. It can diminish a little if the person lies down on his/her side and pulls the knees up to the chest.
Other Symptoms Apart from Pain
There can also be one or more of the following signs of this condition apart from pain:
- Nausea, sometimes, accompanied by vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- A low-grade fever, that begins after the other symptoms occur
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Swelling of the abdominal region
- Impairment in the ability to pass gas
When Should Medical Advice be Sought?
In case there are symptoms of pain in the abdomen, especially in the lower-right side or the middle-lower region, accompanied by vomiting and/or fever, a doctor needs to be consulted. And if the symptoms extend for over four hours, then medical evaluation will need to be carried out urgently. Children, for instance, do not have the typical signs of appendicitis always; hence, parents may not get medical treatment for them in time.
Children, therefore, have a higher tendency of rupturing their appendix compared to adults. Hence, if a child complains of abdominal pain, it is advisable not to take it lightly. There are incidences of ruptured appendix even in adults, perhaps because they tend to take the abdominal pain lightly at first, and thus delay consulting a doctor.
Precautions to be taken
If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, you need to contact the emergency department of a hospital or get in touch with your doctor immediately. And in the meantime, it is advisable not to drink or eat anything because it may delay or complicate the surgery. If you feel thirsty, just gargle your mouth with water. It is also advisable not to take any pain medications, laxatives, or antibiotics as this may delay the diagnosis, which can result in rupturing the appendix, or mask the symptoms. This in turn could make the diagnosis much harder.
Although anybody can get appendicitis, it usually occurs between the ages of 10 and 30 years. Recognizing the symptoms can lead to timely treatment, and thus prevent the complications that can arise from it, especially amongst the very young and old. Surgical removal of the appendix is the usual treatment method applied.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.