Last updated on 18 November 2020
What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, a small tube-shaped organ attached to your colon. This causes pain that begins around the navel before it travels down to your lower right abdomen.
Although anyone can develop appendicitis, it occurs most often in people between the ages of 10 and 30. Standard treatment is surgical removal of the appendix.
Signs and symptoms of appendicitis may include:
- Dull pain near the navel
- Pain intensifies and moves to the lower right abdomen
- Pain is persistent and increases in intensity
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal swelling
- Inability to pass gas
The pain site may vary, depending on a person’s age and the position of the appendix. Children and teenagers often experience pain in the lower right side of the abdomen. In pregnant women, the pain may be located around the upper abdomen as the appendix is at a higher position during pregnancy.
Appendicitis has symptoms similar to other health conditions. So, it’s important to have a doctor determine the real cause. These may include:
Sudden pain that begins on the right side of the abdomen or around the navel and shifts to the lower right abdomen. The pain often worsens when coughing, walking, or making other jarring movements.
Low-grade fever between 37.2°C and 38°C is usually present. A spike of body temperature to 38.3°C and an increase in heart rate may mean that the appendix has ruptured.
Nausea and vomiting may be present as well as loss of appetite and inability to eat. Some people may also become constipated or have severe diarrhoea.
What causes appendicitis?
When there is a blockage in the lining of the appendix that results in infection, it is likely to cause appendicitis. The blockage is most commonly due to faeces but may also result from a buildup of mucus and parasites. Rapidly multiplying bacteria causes the appendix to become inflamed, swollen and filled with pus. The appendix can rupture if it is not treated promptly.
How is appendicitis diagnosed?
This is done to assess pain by gently applying pressure on the painful area.
This checks for a high white blood cell count, which may indicate an infection.
This helps to rule out the possibility that a urinary tract infection or a kidney stone is causing the pain.
To help confirm appendicitis, an abdominal X-ray, ultrasound, computerised tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be recommended.
How is appendicitis treated?
Treatment of appendicitis usually involves removal of the inflamed appendix via surgery. The surgery, called appendectomy, can be performed laparoscopically or through an open surgery. The type of surgery depends on the severity of condition. A ruptured appendix cannot be treated through a laparoscopic surgery.
Following surgery, full recovery takes several weeks. During this time, get plenty of rest, avoid strenuous activities, and gradually start walking and doing other activities.
What should I do if I think I have appendicitis?
Appendicitis is generally treated as a medical emergency, so if you suspect you have appendicitis, go to the A&E department immediately or call for an ambulance.
During a medical emergency in Singapore, you can also call +65 6473 2222 for an ambulance that will transport you to the nearest hospital or a hospital of your choice. Learn more about Parkway Emergency services.
Infographic is reviewed by
Dr Lim Jit Fong, general surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital
Dr Othello Dave, deputy medical director at Parkway Hospitals
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Appendicitis: Early Signs & Symptoms, Causes, Surgery, Recovery. Retrieved 17 August 2018 from https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-appendicitis#1
Everything You Need to Know About Appendicitis. Retrieved 20 August 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/health/appendicitis
Appendicitis. (2019, May 24) Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/appendicitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20369543
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