Your appendix isn’t an organ you give much thought to, but it can certainly grab your attention when there’s a problem. Each year in the United States, doctors perform more than 300,000 appendectomies, the go-to treatment for appendicitis — an infection in your appendix.
Because appendicitis can lead to potentially life-threatening complications, our team of general surgeons at Rockwall Surgical Specialists thinks it’s a good idea to review some of the signs of this infection. We also dive into why a laparoscopic appendectomy is often the best solution.
A quick look at appendicitis basics
Your appendix is a small tube that’s attached to the top of your lower intestine, right where your small intestine and bowel connect on the lower right side of your abdomen. During your younger years, this pouch played a role in your immune system, but, as an adult, the appendix is largely obsolete.
Appendicitis can occur for several reasons, including:
- Viral, bacterial, or parasite infection in your digestive tract
- Stool blockage
- Tumors that block the small organ (this is very rare)
Appendicitis has a lifetime prevalence of between 6.7%-8.6% and usually occurs in people between the ages of 10 and 30.
Signs of problematic appendicitis
The reason why it’s so important to recognize the signs of appendicitis is that when there’s an infection or inflammation, the small pouch can burst and release infectious materials into your lower abdomen. This can lead to sepsis if the infection enters your bloodstream, which is life-threatening.
Now that we have your attention, let’s review some warning signs of appendicitis, which can develop quickly once infection and inflammation take hold.
The first thing you’ll likely notice is pain in your abdomen, usually around your belly button initially. After a while, this pain can travel to the lower right side of your abdomen. The pain may come and go, but it eventually intensifies and becomes steady.
2. Nausea and vomiting
When the pain first develops, you may experience nausea and vomiting. These symptoms can continue as the pain progresses or subside, leaving you with only pain.
Up to 40% of people who develop acute appendicitis also develop a fever, which occurs when your body fights off an infection.
4. Distended belly
Some people develop a swollen or bloated abdomen with appendicitis.
5. Bowel paralysis
When you have appendicitis, your body may redirect blood from your bowels to this area to fight the infection. As a result, your bowels may stop moving stool and gas through.
Not everyone follows this pattern of symptoms. Sometimes young kids, older people, or pregnant women have far less severe symptoms, which can make recognizing a problem more difficult.
The bottom line is that you have abdominal discomfort for no known reason, and it doesn’t go away or is accompanied by changes in your bowel function, it’s a good idea to get checked out.
Treating appendicitis surgically
If you do have an infected appendix, the standard treatment is surgery. Called an appendectomy, this is a fairly straightforward procedure that we perform routinely here at our practice.
We use the most minimally invasive techniques available — laparoscopy — during which we only make small incisions in your abdomen to remove your appendix. As we mentioned, the appendix is largely obsolete, so you won’t miss this organ after your appendectomy.
If you have more questions about appendicitis or you need surgery, please contact us at one of our Texas locations in Rockwall, Rowlett, Greenville, Terrell, or Forney.