Appendicitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Appendicitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment


Appendicitis is an intestinal disease characterized by a painful, irritating, and inflamed appendix. The appendix is the narrow and hollow tube that stretches from the large intestines. According to Rush University Medical Center (2008), during the formative stages of life, the appendix functions as part of the immune system but this ceases as one grows up. Interestingly, the appendix does not serve any known significant function in the body but its infection may cause death if untreated. Most gastrointestinal surgical operations are because of appendicitis.


Appendicitis is caused by blockage of the interior side of the appendix (Mohan, 2008). The blockage may result from stool, foreign bodies, or hyperplasia around that area. Parasitical or viral infection may also lead to this blockage. This blockage cuts off blood supply to the appendix causing irritation and inflammation of the appendix. Blood nourishes all the body parts and without this nourishment, the appendix starts to die off slowly. The appendix wall may burst open and this allows digestive system contents to enter into the appendix.

Risk Factors

People from a family with an appendicitis history are more likely to contract this disease. Research links cystic fibrosis strongly to appendicitis. Age appears to be a predisposing factor as many people get this disease between the ages of seven and thirty. Children are more vulnerable than adults are (Craig, 2009). Children are vulnerable to many diseases because of an immune system that is not fully developed.


The common symptoms of appendicitis include mild pain near the upper abdomen but the pain intensifies as it approaches the lower abdomen especially the right side. This is fundamentally the first classical symptom followed by anorexia, fever, nausea, and vomiting, abdominal swelling, and difficulties in passing gas (Mohan, 2008). Later as the condition progresses, there is painful urination, diarrhea, and severe cramps. Not all abdominal pains are symptoms of appendicitis but people should not overlook any suspicious pain emanating from the lower abdomen because this is the first symptom of this disease.


Through evaluating medical history and performing physical examinations, doctors can determine the presence of appendicitis. Diagnostic procedures include taking blood tests to determine infections especially elevated levels of white blood cells and urine tests to determine urinary tract infection. Positive results are characterized by guarding and rebound tenderness among other signs like roving’s sign and obturator sign (National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House, 2009). In complicated cases, doctors may opt to employ imaging procedures that include abdominal ultrasound and computerized tomography (CAT) scan. These imaging procedures utilize ultrasound waves or x-rays to produce an image of the appendix for diagnosis. The other imaging procedure is the lower gastrointestinal series, which utilizes barium to coat the appendix making it visible under x-ray (Rush University Medical Center, 2008).


The treatment modality adopted depends on age, the extent of infection, overall health, and the patient’s tolerance to given medicines or therapies. However, the most recommended treatment method is surgery given the fact that the appendix does not have any known function in the body (Mohan, 2009). There are two forms of surgery, that is, open surgery and laparoscopic. Under the open surgery method, the patient is put under anesthesia and then the doctor makes a small incision in the lower hand side of the abdomen, locates the appendix, and removes it. Under laparoscopy, doctors make several incisions in the lower abdomen, and by use of a laparoscope; they locate the appendix and remove it. Removal of the appendix through surgical operation is known as appendectomy. After the removal, people live normal lives and there is no need to make adjustments in diet or any other lifestyle. If surgery is not available, doctors can use non-surgical methods. This involves the use of antibiotics to treat any infection. However, this method is not applicable especially if the obstruction of the appendix is not caused by parasitical infection.


According to Jason, Vidya, and Lew (2009), there is no known way people can prevent appendicitis. However, research indicates that people who eat foods rich in fibers have low chances of suffering from appendicitis. Therefore, a high fiber diet may act as a preventive measure.


Patients record high levels of recovery from appendicitis within four to six weeks (National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House, 2009). With some exercises, the surgical wound heals as cells regenerate and the patient recovers fully. However, in cases where the appendix had ruptured, it may take longer than the normal six weeks. This is because it takes about two weeks to drain pus that had accumulated due to the rupture.


Appendicitis is a gastrointestinal disease that affects the appendix. This condition results from a blocked appendix due to infections or hyperplasia of cells. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House (2009) posits that most gastrointestinal surgical operations result from appendicitis. Even though the appendix has no known function in the body, appendicitis is a fatal disease if not treated. Treatment involves surgical operations and in rare cases use of antibiotics to treat infections. Preventive measures include taking a diet rich in fibers like vegetables and fruits. Everybody is at risk of suffering from appendicitis but people with cystic fibroids are more likely to suffer from this disease.

Reference List

Craig, S. (2009). Appendicitis, Acute. emedicine. Web.

Jason, Z., Vidya, J., & Lew, H. (2009). An Occult Presentation of Appendicitis in a Patient with Tetraplegia. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. Web.

Mohan, V. (2008). Digestive Disorders Health Center. Appendicitis. Web.

National digestive diseases information clearing house. (2009). Appendicitis. Web.

Rush University Medical Center. (2009). Appendicitis. Web.