Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, a finger-shaped pouch that projects from your colon on the lower right side of your abdomen.
The appendix is a small, tube-like organ attached to the first part of the large intestine. A blockage inside of the appendix causes appendicitis. The blockage leads to increased pressure, problems with blood flow, and inflammation. If the blockage is not treated, the appendix can burst and spread infection into the abdomen. This causes a condition called peritonitis.
Contrary to popular belief, researchers have not found that eating, diet, and nutrition cause or prevent appendicitis.
Although anyone can develop appendicitis, most often it occurs in people between the ages of 10 and 30.
Appendicitis can have more than one cause, and in many cases the cause is not clear. Possible causes include:
- Blockage of the opening inside the appendix
- Enlarged tissue in the wall of your appendix, caused by infection in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or elsewhere in your body
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Stool, parasites, or growths that can clog your appendiceal lumen
- Trauma to your abdomen
The most common symptom of appendicitis is pain in your abdomen. If you have appendicitis, you’ll most often have pain in your abdomen that
- Begins near your belly button and then moves lower and to your right
- Gets worse in a matter of hours
- Gets worse when you move around, take deep breaths, cough, or sneeze
- Is severe and often described as different from any pain you’ve felt before
- Occurs suddenly and may even wake you up if you’re sleeping
- Occurs before other symptoms
Other symptoms of appendicitis may include
- Loss of appetite
- Constipation or diarrhea
- An inability to pass gas
- A low-grade fever
- Swelling in your abdomen
- The feeling that having a bowel movement will relieve discomfort
Most often, health care professionals suspect the diagnosis of appendicitis based on your symptoms, your medical history, and a physical exam. A doctor can confirm the diagnosis with an ultrasound, x-ray, or MRI exam.
Doctors typically treat appendicitis with surgery to remove the appendix. Surgeons perform the surgery in a hospital with general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend surgery if you have continuous abdominal pain and fever, or signs of a burst appendix and infection. Prompt surgery decreases the chance that your appendix will burst.