Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix, a finger-like organ that projects from the large intestine. It is one of the most common surgical emergencies, affecting approximately 1 in 20 people in their lifetime. Appendicitis is most common in people between the ages of 10 and 30, but it can occur at any age.
The most common symptom of appendicitis is sudden and severe pain in the lower right abdomen. This pain may start around the navel and then move to the lower right abdomen. Other symptoms of appendicitis may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Abdominal swelling
- Difficulty passing gas
- Tenderness and pain in the lower right abdomen when touched or moved
The exact cause of appendicitis is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a blockage in the appendix. This blockage can be caused by:
- Hardened stool (fecalith)
- Foreign object, such as a pin or toothpick
The only treatment for appendicitis is surgery to remove the appendix. This surgery is called an appendectomy. Appendectomy can be performed laparoscopically (through small incisions in the abdomen) or open (through a larger incision in the abdomen).
If appendicitis is not treated promptly, it can lead to serious complications, including:
- Perforation (rupture) of the appendix, which can cause a dangerous infection in the abdomen (peritonitis)
- Abscess (collection of pus) in the abdomen
- Sepsis (a life-threatening condition caused by infection)
There is no known way to prevent appendicitis. However, seeking medical attention promptly if you experience any of the symptoms of appendicitis can help to prevent complications.
Most people recover from an appendectomy within a few weeks. However, it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully during your recovery, such as taking your medications as prescribed and getting plenty of rest.