What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis is one of the
causes of serious belly pain. It happens when the
, a part of the large intestine, becomes
infected and inflamed. Experts don't know what the appendix does in the body,
but most of the time it doesn't cause problems.
Appendicitis is most common
in people ages 10 to 30, but it can happen at any age. With treatment, most people recover quickly and don't have any further problems. But without treatment, the appendix may burst and cause infection throughout the belly. This can be very serious.
What causes appendicitis?
It's often not clear why someone gets appendicitis. In some cases, a
small object (such as a hard piece of stool) blocks the opening to the
appendix. Then bacteria can grow in the appendix and cause an infection.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of
appendicitis is belly pain. Many people feel the first pain near the belly
button. Then it moves to the lower right side of the belly. But the pain can be
in different parts of your belly or even on your side or back. The pain may get
worse if you move, walk, or cough.
You may also have a fever or feel sick to
In some cases, appendicitis doesn't cause any
symptoms except for belly pain. The pain in your belly may
be different than any pain you have had before. It may be severe. Or it may not
seem like a very strong pain, but you may have the feeling that something is
wrong. If you have
that does not go away after 4
hours, call your doctor. If you have
, call your doctor right away.
Sometimes the only symptom is a general feeling of
not being well and a pain that is hard to describe. Trust your instincts. If you think you could have appendicitis, you need to see a doctor.
How is appendicitis diagnosed?
Appendicitis can be hard to diagnose. Your doctor will
do a physical exam and ask you questions about what symptoms you have, when they started, and what was
happening before the pain began. You also may have blood and urine tests to look for
signs of infection. In some cases, you may need a
of your belly.
Even though tests can't always show for certain that you have appendicitis, your symptoms may lead your doctor to
strongly suspect that you have it. In this case, your
doctor probably will recommend that you have surgery to remove your appendix. Most of the time, the doctor is right and the appendix is infected. During
surgery your doctor may find that your appendix is normal and that something else
caused your pain. Your doctor will go ahead and remove your appendix. You can
live just fine without it, and taking it out gets rid of any chance that it
could cause problems later.