Do I Have Appendicitis? Appendicitis Testing for Women, Men, and Children
The appendix is a small pouch located in the lower right abdomen. It’s only about 3.5 inches long, and dangles from your large intestine, close to where your large and small intestines meet. The purpose of the appendix, however, is unclear. Most doctors consider it a vestigial organ, meaning it may have had an important function in our evolutionary past, but is now more or less obsolete. Other medical professionals believe it may still have a purpose as a storage unit for “good” bacteria, helping to revive the gut microbiome after illness or gastric distress.
Occasionally, this mysterious organ acts up. When the appendix becomes inflamed, it can fill with pus and cause extreme pain. If left untreated, it can eventually rupture, leading to a life-threatening situation. It’s important to be able to recognize the signs of appendicitis pain, and know what appendicitis feels like so you can head to the nearest emergency room in time.
How do I know if I have appendicitis?
Lots of things can cause abdominal pain. Our mid-sections are home to most of our vital organs, and not to mention where we tend to feel the effects of gas and bloating. The location of appendicitis pain is unique compared to most other forms of abdominal pain. The appendix is located in the lower right quadrant of your abdomen, a little below and to the right of your belly button. Your gallbladder is also on the right side, but is in the upper half of your abdomen. Kidney pain tends to radiate from your lower back, and liver pain is usually felt in the upper right quadrant. Your spleen can also become inflamed and cause acute pain, but this pain is located on the left side.
A few key symptoms of appendicitis can help you eliminate other abdominal issues and lead you to make an informed decision about whether or not to seek emergency care.
What are the symptoms of appendicitis?
One of the tell-tale symptoms of appendicitis is how quickly the pain arises. If you experience the following symptoms, you should contact a healthcare provider immediately:
- Pain in the lower right side of your abdomen
- Sudden, intense pain that starts around your navel and then shifts to your lower right abdomen
- Abdominal bloating and gas
- Pain that intensifies when you move or cough
Signs of appendicitis in kids
Appendicitis can happen at any age, and is the most common reason for emergency surgery in children. Appendicitis pain location is the same for children as it is for adults, often starting near the navel then moving towards the lower right portion of the abdomen. Children may be more likely than adults to experience a high fever. If your child has a fever of 104 or above, you should seek medical care immediately.
Overall, the signs of appendicitis in women, men, and children are the same.
Acute vs. chronic appendicitis
Chronic appendicitis refers to appendicitis that lasts for more than a week. It is caused by mild inflammation and can be initiated by abdominal trauma, a tumor, fecal matter trapped in the appendix, or even worms. Symptoms can be very mild, and are often misdiagnosed as gastrointestinal problems. Less than 2% of all appendicitis cases are classified as chronic.
Acute appendicitis is the most common form. This is when inflammation happens suddenly, worsening quickly over the course of 24-48 hours, and can lead to a ruptured organ.
How to check for appendicitis at home
To rule out other abdominal issues, you should pay special attention to where your appendicitis pain hurts. If the pain worsens or changes when you move or cough, or if pushing on your lower right side with your fingers results in more pain, you should seek medical attention. If possible, get a friend or family member to drive you to the nearest emergency room.
Diagnostic tests for appendicitis
There are many diagnostic tests your provider may run to determine whether or not you have appendicitis. These include a Complete Blood Count to check your white blood cell count and screen for infection, a Urinalysis to see if bladder or kidney issues are the cause of your pain, or even a Pregnancy Test to rule out an ectopic pregnancy.
If your provider thinks it’s likely that you have appendicitis, an ultrasound or CT scan of your abdomen is the next step. This can show whether or not your appendix is inflamed, and help your provider make a decision about the type of treatment to pursue.
Treatment for appendicitis
If you are diagnosed with appendicitis, you will most likely need an immediate surgery. Appendicitis surgery is called an appendectomy. This is a common emergency surgery, and is used to remove the appendix before it ruptures. An appendectomy can also be performed after the appendix ruptures, in which case the surgeons will also thoroughly clean the abdominal cavity to remove all pus and other substances that could enter the bloodstream and lead to sepsis.
Appendectomies are very low-risk procedures. Some are even done on an outpatient basis, meaning you don’t even have to stay the night at the hospital. Your doctor will recommend that you rest for the first few days after surgery, and you may feel some abdominal pain as you heal. Most patients fully recover within 2-4 weeks, and minimal follow-up is required.
Is appendicitis genetic?
Research suggests that your risk of developing appendicitis may be greater if one of your parents had appendicitis. However, appendicitis can happen to anyone, and is neither preventable nor necessarily hereditary.
What food can cause appendicitis?
In general, your diet does not play a role in whether or not you get appendicitis. However, there have been cases in which doctors discovered fruit or vegetable seeds trapped in the appendix, which likely caused the inflammation.
How long does it take to recover from appendicitis?
Appendicitis will not heal on its own. However, most people fully recover from an appendectomy within a couple weeks of their surgery.
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