Vermiform appendix is often referred to as a vestigial structure. The term 'vestigial structure' refers to a structure that has lost some or all the functional roles that it might have played in ancestral organisms. Despite the advancement in the field of science and technology, appendix function is a subject that remains shrouded in mystery. Research is still going on to ascertain the role of an appendix, which is why it would be wrong to call it a non-functional organ.
In fact, a few studies suggest that the appendix plays an immunological role, and helps maintain the balance of microbial flora in the gut. Being rich in active lymphatic follicles and immunoglobulin (Ig)A- and IgG-producing immunocytes, its tissue might help protect against infection. However, problems can arise, if it becomes inflamed. Inflammation of appendix, which is medically referred to as appendicitis, is a serious condition that could turn life-threatening, if the appendix ruptures.
The Location of Appendix
The appendix is a narrow tube or a finger-shaped pouch that is located in the right lower quadrant of the abdomen. The location of this worm-like appendage might vary in case of some people, but such anatomical variations are not very common. Some might have the appendix in the center. Individual affected by a condition called situs inversus might have the appendix on the left side. This close-ended narrow tube is situated at the ileocecal junction, which is the meeting place of the ileum from the small intestine and the cecum from the colon. The inner portion of the appendix is called the appendiceal lumen. Mucus produced by the appendix passes through the appendiceal lumen and empties into the large intestine.
Causes and Symptoms
Appendicitis can affect people in the age group of 10-30 years. If the appendix becomes obstructed by mucus or due to hardening of the stool, it might increase the possibility of bacterial overgrowth. When bacteria infect the wall of this appendage, it results in swelling and inflammation. Inflammation could also occur in the event of trauma to the abdomen or in case of individuals affected by medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or infection in gastrointestinal tract.
The location of pain could depend on the location of the appendix. Where one may experience pain may sometimes vary due to anatomical variations. The appendix is normally located on the right lower quadrant of the abdomen. The pain arising from an inflamed appendix would therefore be felt around the lower right abdomen.
Abdominal pain is the most common symptom of this condition. The symptoms include:
- Dull pain that starts at the navel region and shifts to the lower right abdominal region
- Pain becomes sharp as it shifts to the lower right abdomen.
- Pain might worsen with sudden jerky movements, coughing, sneezing, or while taking deep breaths
- Tenderness in the lower right abdomen
- Abdominal swelling
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Inability to pass gas
An inflamed appendix is a very serious condition, therefore, those experiencing the symptoms of appendicitis must get themselves medically examined soon. The treatment of appendicitis involves the removal of appendix through surgery. The inflamed appendix can be removed by an open surgery or laparoscopic surgery.
In the absence of prompt treatment, there's a risk of perforation of the appendix, which can lead to the formation of a pus-filled periappendiceal abscess or an infection of the peritoneum, which is the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity. Therefore, once appendicitis is diagnosed, surgery should be done immediately, so as to rule out the possibility of complications associated with a ruptured appendix.
Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency, which is why medical assistance must be sought if the aforementioned symptoms are experienced.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.