Appendicitis is a condition which results from the inflammation of the appendix. This condition is not covered in first aid training, however, rescuers may come across patients that require further medical attention such as those with appendicitis The appendix is an appendage or a tin tube that projects out of the large intestine, on the lower right hand side of the abdominal region, called the caecum. The tube does not exactly hold any essential functions in the human body but it can lead to severe complications.
The appendix is susceptible to be filled with pus, food debris, feces and other forms of obstructions which lead to the infestation of bacteria. It is crucial to treat the condition promptly as overfilling of the appendix can cause it to burst, allowing the contents of the tube—including the bacteria to spread to other regions of the body leading to serious infection, which can be life-threatening if not dealt with promptly.
The condition can cause severe pain which initiates around the navel area and moves towards the lower right-hand side of the abdomen. The pain increases during 12-18 hours after onset and can become excruciating after a certain period of time.
Appendicitis can occur at any age, but frequent cases report appendicitis during childhood and early adolescence. People over the age of 30, are not as susceptible to the condition as are young adults. The condition can be treated with surgery, which involves the removal of the tube.
The exact cause of appendicitis may not be clear in a patient, however, some cases of appendicitis report that the condition occurs due to the following reasons:
- A blockage in the tube: food, fecal stone or a hard chunk of feces may block the appendix.
- Infection: the blockage is usually followed by a bacterial infection. This includes gastrointestinal viral infection, but it may also occur due to other forms of inflammation.
In either case, the environment in the appendix is well suited for bacteria to proliferate, which results in the swelling and inflammation of the appendix that eventually gets filled with pus. If the condition is not treated immediately, the appendix may burst allowing the bacteria to spread across the abdominal lining, causing infection and death in severe cases.
The signs and symptoms are easy to recognize and distinguish from other conditions:
- A severe pain that initiates around the navel region and begins to travel across the lower right hand side of the abdomen.
- After a few hours, the pain becomes excruciatingly worse.
- You will feel tenderness in the lower abdomen if you apply pressure to it.
- Sharp pain due to rebound tenderness i.e. when the pressure is removed from the lower abdomen.
- Pain that aggravates due to movements such as coughing, walking or talking
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low-grade fever
- Suppressed appetite
- Unable to pass gas
- Abdominal swelling and tenderness
Note that the area of pain varies according to age and position of the appendix. Often pregnant women and young children experience pain in other region compared to other people.
When to seek medical help
- If pain gets worse after a few hours. Particularly from the navel to the lower abdominal region
- If signs and symptoms appear that begin to cause major problems
- Severe abdominal pain results that prevents you from sitting in a comfortable position.