A blockage inside of the appendix causes appendicitis and can lead to increased pressure, problems with blood flow and inflammation. The appendix can become blocked by feces, a foreign object, or rarely, a tumor. If the blockage is not treated, the appendix can burst and spread infection into the abdomen. This causes peritonitis, an inflammation of the lining of the abdomen, which can be very serious.
The main symptom is pain in the abdomen, often on the right side. It is usually sudden and gets worse over time. Other symptoms may include:
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Inability to pass gas
- Low fever
Not everyone with appendicitis has all these symptoms. And anyone can get appendicitis, but it is more common among ages 10-30.
How you describe your symptoms can lead your doctor to suspect appendicitis. If you have appendicitis, your pain will increase when the doctor gently presses on your lower right belly.
If your appendix has ruptured, touching the stomach may cause a great deal of pain and result in tightening of the muscles.
If a rectal exam is performed, your doctor may find tenderness on the right side of your rectum.
Your physician may draw blood to see if you have a high white blood cell count, another indicator of appendicitis. Imaging tests may also include an abdominal CT scan or ultrasound.
Appendicitis is a medical emergency and almost always involves surgical removal.
If a CT scan shows that you have an abscess, you may be treated with antibiotics first.
You will have your appendix removed after the infection and swelling have gone away.
Most people recover quickly after surgery if the appendix is removed before it ruptures. Recovery may take longer if your appendix ruptures before surgery.