Appendix is a vestigial organ situated at the junction of the small intestine and large intestine in the digestive system. A vestigial organ is the one that is there due to evolutionary changes but has no role to play.
Inflammation of the appendix causes Appendicitis which is a very painful condition and can be called a ‘medical emergency’ which prompts that surgical removal of appendix is the only option. If left untreated, the appendix might burst and spill harmful material and infectious fluids into the abdominal cavity. This can have serious repercussions unless treated with very strong antibiotics. In order to avoid major complications, the doctor would prescribe an immediate surgery to treat Appendicitis. It should not be delayed. Generally, people aged between ten to thirty years report this condition.
Causes of Appendicitis:
Appendicitis is caused by a blockage of appendix by a foreign body (stone, bullet, pin, etc.), stool, pus, tumor, or cancer. It can also be caused by any infection in the body which can make the organ swell. Appendicitis may also result due to abdominal trauma or injury.
Types of Appendicitis:
There are generally two types of Appendicitis: Acute and Subacute Appendicitis:
Acute Appendicitis: This type of Appendicitis is marked by severe, intolerable abdominal pain which worsens very quickly, usually in a matter of few hours.
Subacute Appendicitis: This type of Appendicitis is characterized by recurrent but mild abdominal pain which starts and subsides on its own initially, so much so that the patient and the doctor do not realize the actual problem until it changes into Acute Appendicitis.
Symptoms of Appendicitis:
Some of the most common symptoms of Appendicitis are:
Sudden pain near the upper abdomen or navel may intensify. Pain may get worse on movement like while walking or coughing.
Continuous light fever.
Abdominal swelling and cramps.
Since the symptoms are very vague and are like those of other ailments of the bladder, intestinal infections, and gastroenteritis, it is often tricky to accurately diagnose Appendicitis at once. Following are the tests for diagnosing Appendicitis:
Abdominal examination to check inflammation.
Blood test to check if there is any infection.
An ultrasound to examine swelling in the appendix.
A CT scans.
Appendicitis is treated by surgically removing the appendix. This surgery is called Appendectomy. It can be performed as an open surgery in which a larger incision is required; or, by laparoscopy which involves very minor incision and hence heals very quickly without causing much pain or scars. But, in the case of ruptured appendix, an open Appendectomy must be performed so that the abdominal cavity can be cleaned up too.
Post- Operative Care:
An open Appendectomy may take a month or longer to heal fully, but a laparoscopic procedure usually takes not more than three weeks at the maximum to heal completely. Following are some of the post-operative care:
Avoid strenuous physical activity to prevent stitches from getting undone. Also, do not stretch the body too much.
If the pain-killers do not help much, consult the doctor immediately.
Do not overwork. Have a sound sleep but stay active by attempting short walks.
Appendicitis can escalate and progress very quickly causing life-threatening complications. It is therefore advisable to quickly go for Appendectomy as soon as it is established that this is the actual problem.