Overview – What is it?
Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix; a finger-shaped pouch that extends from the colon on the lower right side of your abdomen. Though its specific purpose in the human body is not clear, an infection to the appendix can lead to death. Appendicitis is caused by infection which occurs as a result of rapid multiplication of bacteria. Appendicitis can be diagnosed through blood sample, urine test or imaging test. Antibiotics and surgery are the common treatments for appendicitis. A healthy diet is said to reduce the risk of appendicitis.
Causes – What causes it?
Appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes blocked by a foreign body, cancer or stool, or is as a result of infection. Infection in the appendix is brought about by multiplication of bacteria which causes inflammation to the appendix as it becomes filled with pus. If the appendix is not treated in time, the following complications can occur:
- CThe appendix can rupture spreading infection throughout the abdomen, or
- A pocket of pus can form in the abdomen.
Symptoms – What do you feel?
Some of the symptoms brought about by appendicitis are:
- Pain in the right side of the lower abdomen
- Sudden pain around the navel or the lower abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal swelling
When the condition gets worse, other severe symptoms may appear. These include:
- Pain during urination
- Severe cramps
- Vomiting that precedes abdominal pain
- Dull or sharp pain in the upper or lower abdomen, back or rectum
Diagnosis – How do you diagnose it?
Understanding your medical history and knowing what symptoms you are experiencing is the first step for a doctor in diagnosing appendicitis. This is followed by:
- Abdominal examination to check for symptoms like abdominal swelling, after which tests can be done to determine whether you have appendicitis.
- Blood test: This is done to check the level of white blood cells, as that can indicate an infection.
- Urine test: A urinalysis helps to determine whether other conditions like kidney stone or a urinary tract infection (UTI), may be causing the symptoms being experienced.
- Imaging tests: Tests like computerised tomography (CT) scan, an abdominal x-ray or ultrasound, can help confirm appendicitis or determine what else could be causing the symptoms.
Treatment – How do you treat it?
- Antibiotics: This are given before surgery to prevent infection.
- Surgery: Appendectomy is usually done to remove the appendix through a small incision in the abdomen in what is known as laparoscopic surgery and which allows for a faster recovery.
- Draining an abscess: This is done before surgery because when the appendix bursts, an abscess is formed.
Prevention – How do you prevent it?
There is not particular way to prevent appendicitis, but you can reduce your risk of developing it through diet. A diet that is high in fibre is helpful in reducing the chance of getting appendicitis. How can you increase your fibre intake?
- Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables
- Eating brown rice instead of white rice
- Cooking or baking using whole-wheat flour
- Adding kidney beans to salads
- Adding oat bran or wheat germ to breakfast cereals, salads and yoghurt