Appendicitis occurs when the appendix, which is the finger-shaped pouch that protrudes from the colon (in the lower right part of the belly), gets inflamed. The inflammation can be due to a blockage caused by a hardened stool (or, in some cases, a tumor); or a viral, bacterial, or parasitic infection in your digestive tract.
Although appendicitis can occur in anyone, some people are more likely to develop the condition than others: it is more common among teens and people in their 20s; those who have a family history of appendicitis; and males.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, appendicitis affects about 1 in 1,000 people in the United States. While its prevalence is not as high as that of other gastrointestinal conditions, appendicitis should not be ignored, as it can result in a potentially life-threatening complication when left untreated. It pays to watch out for its symptoms especially if you have risk factors for it.
Symptoms of Appendicitis
It’s worth keeping in mind that the symptoms of appendicitis can mimic those of other digestive problems, and that it can quickly escalate into a medical emergency: the appendix can rupture very rapidly (48 to 72 hours) after the onset of symptoms.
Go to the nearest emergency room if you experience the following:
- Pain – Its site can vary depending on the position of your appendix, but it usually begins on the right part of your lower belly (or around your navel and shifts to your lower right belly).
The pain usually starts as a cramp or an ache, and tends to worsen when you sneeze, walk, cough, or make other jarring movements. As your appendix becomes more inflamed, you will likely feel sharp, sudden pain.
- Abdominal bloating and/or flatulence
- Appetite loss
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Fever (usually low grade but may worsen as the condition progresses)
- Nausea and vomiting (occurs in 75% of patients)
Diagnosis and Treatment
To confirm a diagnosis, an emergency room physician will do a physical exam (apply gentle pressure on your abdomen to assess your pain), and carry out the necessary tests (e.g., blood, urine, and imaging tests).
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, the ER physician may refer you to a general surgeon or gastrointestinal (GI) specialist, who will perform an appendectomy (surgical removal of your appendix). You will be given a dose of antibiotics beforehand. There are people who respond well to antibiotics (uncomplicated cases), but surgical intervention remains the standard of care for appendicitis because there is a 39% recurrence rate if only antibiotics are used.
An appendectomy can be done using the open (traditional) approach or the minimally invasive approach (laparoscopic method).
Albeit there’s no way you can prevent appendicitis, research shows that you may be able to lower your risk by eating the right foods and having a balanced diet. If you have risk factors for appendicitis, your best bet is to work with a GI doctor, who can give you expert advice and dietary recommendations to help mitigate your risk.
Top-Notch Digestive Health Care in Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch, FL
At Intercoastal Medical Group, our board-certified GI doctors have established an excellent reputation for the exceptional care and treatment outcomes they provide. They also take pleasure in equipping patients with useful information, which can make a difference in how they manage their digestive and overall health.
To see one of our GI doctors, you will need a referral from your primary care physician. If you don’t have a PCP yet, we have highly credentialed family physicians and internists on our team who can coordinate your care. Give us a call at our office near you to schedule an appointment. You may also fill out this form, and our staff member will call you to arrange your visit.
Our internists accommodate patients at these locations: Lakewood Ranch I, Lakewood Ranch II, Hyde Park, Cattleridge Medical Building, Palmer Ranch I, and Palmer Ranch II. Our family medicine physicians accommodate patients at these offices: Lakewood Ranch I, Lakewood Ranch II, Cattleridge Medical Building, Beneva Family Practice, Beneva Professional Center, Palmer Ranch I, and Palmer Ranch II.