More often than not, appendicitis is viewed as, well, just appendicitis. However, the sharp pain is more serious than people think. Simply brushing it off can cause late detection, stabbing pains, or even death.
While appendicitis occurs most often in people between 10 and 30 years old, anyone can develop the condition. A doctor’s diagnosis of appendicitis needs to happen in a timely manner for early detection before the appendix bursts.
Dr Ong Kian Peng Julian, consultant colorectal and general surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital shares the most important things you should know:
What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix which is a small structure which sits at the junction between the small and large intestine. It often causes stomach pains that might require surgery.
This can happen to anyone, with a lifetime risk of almost seven per cent for females and almost nine per cent for males. Though the cause of appendicitis is not always known, many cases occur due to bacterial or viral infections.
What does appendicitis feel like?
You might first feel pain at the lower right side of your abdomen or even develop a fever. “Pain from acute appendicitis typically starts as a dull ache in the centre of the abdomen,” Dr Ong said. It can sometimes be mistaken for illnesses like food poisoning because patients tend to also get fever, nausea and vomiting.
As appendicitis progresses, the inflamed appendix irritates the inner lining of the abdominal cavity and this leads to a localised pain in the right lower abdomen. This pain is usually persistent and worsening in severity compared to benign tummy aches which are episodic.
Very occasionally, patients may experience long term right lower abdominal pain, and all investigations are normal.
Diagnostic laparoscopy and laparoscopic appendicectomy can successfully treat this pain and histological examination of the appendix can confirm chronic appendicitis
What happens when the appendix ruptures?
When the appendix ruptures, faecal material, bacteria and pus from the infected appendix and intestines enter the abdominal cavity, which is usually a sterile environment.
There are usually two outcomes – the infection being contained and causes appendiceal phlegmon, or the infection being free in the abdominal cavity.
The latter can be life-threatening. Thankfully, it can be treated with surgery when diagnosed early.