An appendectomy is a surgical procedure in which your appendix is removed. During this procedure, your surgeon will make a small incision in your abdomen to remove the appendix.
Your appendix is a tube that’s used to drain bile from your gallbladder once it is full. The bile you excrete is a digestive fluid. It helps break down fats from food.
In other words, your appendix is a part of your digestive system. When it becomes infected or diseased, it can become inflamed and blocked. When it becomes too large, it’s called appendicitis.
The appendix isn’t always inflamed. There are many causes of appendicitis, including:
- Food allergies
- Blockage from a tumor
With any appendicitis, your appendix will become inflamed and blocked. If you have appendicitis, your appendix will be swollen and inflamed. It will also be hard to pass the stool.
Appendicitis can be very painful and can cause other symptoms, such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Low backache
The symptoms of appendicitis can be very similar to those of gallbladder disease. To make sure you aren’t having the gallbladder attack, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms. You may need to be tested for gallstones.
The gallbladder is the small, pear-shaped organ that aids in the digestion of fats. It’s located just below your liver.
When your gallbladder is enlarged, it can block your bile duct. This blockage prevents bile from flowing to your small intestine. This causes bile to sit in your gallbladder.
Bile is a digestive fluid. It helps break down fats from food. When your gallbladder becomes blocked, it won’t release bile. This can make your body unable to break down fats.
Bile is released into the small intestine. The small intestine is where the fat from food is broken down and absorbed.
When your gallbladder is infected, it can become inflamed and blocked. This can lead to gallstones. Gallstones are hard deposits made of a combination of minerals and fat. They can block your bile duct.
Gallbladder disease can also cause other symptoms, such as:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Pain in your upper abdomen
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- Unintended weight loss
- Abdominal pain
The symptoms of gallbladder disease can be very similar to those of appendicitis. To make sure you aren’t having the gallbladder attack, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms. You may need to be tested for gallstones.
How is appendicitis diagnosed?
Your doctor may suspect you have appendicitis based on your symptoms. If you’re experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of appendicitis, they may order a test to confirm the diagnosis.
The most common test used to diagnose appendicitis is an abdominal CT scan. This scan uses X-rays and computer technology to create an image of your abdomen. It can help your doctor see if your appendix is blocked.
Other tests your doctor may order to diagnose appendicitis include:
- Blood tests. Your doctor may order a complete blood count (CBC) or a stool culture to check for inflammation and infection.
- Ultrasound. An ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of the inside of your body. This test can help your doctor see if your appendix is infected.
- Endoscopy. During an endoscopy, your doctor inserts a thin tube with a small camera on the end into your anus. This tube is called an endoscope. Your doctor will use a special light and small tools to inspect your abdominal cavity.
What’s the treatment for appendicitis?
Your doctor will treat appendicitis based on the severity of your symptoms. The goal of treatment is to remove your appendix and prevent complications.
Treatment for mild cases of appendicitis may include:
- Taking antibiotics
- Applying a heating pad to the area
- Taking pain medication
- Taking anti-nausea medication
If your appendix is inflamed and blocked, your doctor will surgically remove it. This is called an appendectomy.
If your appendix is too large or infected, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
What’s the long-term outlook?
The symptoms of appendicitis are usually very painful. However, they usually go away on their own.
In some cases, appendicitis can be a life-threatening condition. If left untreated, it can cause serious complications, such as:
- Peritonitis. Peritonitis is an infection in the membrane that surrounds your stomach and intestines. Your appendix becomes infected from peritonitis.
- Perforation. Perforation is the partial or complete tear or rupture of the appendix.
- Infected abscess. Your appendix can become infected and turn into an abscess. This is a small pocket of pus.
Severe cases of appendicitis can cause complications like:
- Infected abscess
- Rupture of the bowel
- Bleeding from the intestines
Seek emergency medical attention if:
- You have a fever
- You have severe pain
- You can’t pass stool
What is the long-term outlook for people with appendicitis?
In most cases, appendicitis can be treated with antibiotics. However, if your appendix becomes infected, it may need to be surgically removed.
If you have appendicitis, be sure to follow up with your doctor regularly. If not treated, it can cause complications like:
How can I prevent appendicitis?
You can lower your risk of developing appendicitis by:
- Eating a balanced diet that’s rich in fiber
- Eating a diet that’s high in fiber
- Eating healthy foods and low-fat diet
- Eating a diet that has a low amount of fat
- Drinking plenty of water
- Getting regular exercise
- Getting the flu vaccine
- Avoiding smoking
The bottom line
Appendicitis is a condition that causes your appendix to become inflamed and blocked. It can cause severe pain and other symptoms.
If left untreated, it can cause serious complications, such as peritonitis, perforation, and an abscess.
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