Appendicitis is a condition that involves inflammation or an infection inside the appendix, which is a thin tube that is connected to your large intestine. A number of different issues can cause the appendix to inflame or become infected, and when this happens, it is considered a medical emergency, which is why it is so important to know and recognize the signs of appendicitis. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why appendicitis can develop and what symptoms suggest that you may need to visit a gastrointestinal specialist to manage your appendicitis.
What Is Appendicitis?
When you’re young, your appendix acts as part of your immune system, helping you fight off disease. As you get older, and your immune system becomes stronger, the appendix stops serving a vital purpose. At this point, we only really pay attention to our appendix in the event that a problem develops. For about one in every 1,000 people, they end up experiencing an issue with their appendix that requires prompt medical attention.
One of the main reasons why appendicitis symptoms should not be ignored is because left untreated, your appendix can actually rupture as a result of the infection or swelling. This can cause stool, mucus or infectious bacteria to leak into other areas of your body, which can lead to a serious infection called peritonitis.
Appendicitis can develop for a few different reasons, but the main cause is the presence of a foreign virus, bacteria or parasite that causes an infection. The infection in these areas causes the appendix to become sore and swollen, which in turn limits the amount of healthy blood that can reach the area. Because healthy blood cannot easily reach the appendix, the condition typically gets worse, potentially leading to holes or tears in the appendix wall as tissue death occurs. As we noted above, this can eventually lead to an appendix rupture.
So what are some of the warning signs that may suggest that you are dealing with an early or more advanced stage of appendicitis? Some symptoms to be aware of include:
- Abdominal pain.
- Pain near the belly button and to the lower right-hand side of your belly.
- Pain that worsens as time goes on.
- Discomfort that worsens with movement, when breathing deeply or when putting pressure on the area.
- Loss of appetite.
- Changes in bowel habits.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, don’t take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and hope the issue goes away. Your appendix can burst within 48-72 hours of symptoms developing, so you’ll want to reach out to a medical professional as soon as possible if you believe the issue could be housed in your appendix.
How Is Appendicitis Treated?
As we touched on in the introduction, the appendix is a non-vital organ. Because of this, and due to the threat of rupture, almost all cases of appendicitis are treated with surgery to remove the appendix. This can be conducted using an open or minimally invasive procedure.
- Open Appendectomy – You are given anesthesia and a 2-4 inch incision is made on the lower right side of your abdomen. This will allow the doctor to visualize the area and remove the appendix. If the appendix has already burst, a shunt may be placed to drain pus or fluids in the area. The shunt is typically removed a few days later when the infection has resolved.
- Minimally Invasive Appendectomy – This method is very similar to the above technique, but instead of using one 2-4 inch incision, the doctor will make a few much smaller incisions. Special tools and a device with a microcamera are inserted so that the doctor can visualize the appendix on a video screen in the operating room. They will work to remove the appendix and insert a shunt as needed, as they are also able to remove the appendix through these small incisions.
Your recovery time will be based on whether or not your appendix burst. If it did not rupture, you should only need a couple days to feel back to normal. If the appendix burst, you will need to take antibiotics and recovery will take longer in order to ensure an infection fully resolves. Once recovered, you will be able to live a normal life without your appendix, and no changes in daily habits are typically needed.
For more information about appendicitis or how it is treated, reach out to Dr. Bhatti and the team at Bhatti GI Consultants today at (952) 368-3800.