What Is Acute Appendicitis?

Helena Reimer

Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency wherein the appendix, a small sac-like organ that extends from the large intestine, becomes inflamed. The inflammation usually develops fast and is often caused by an infection or a blockage. It can be fatal if not dealt with immediately, because the appendix can burst open, causing the infectious fluids to leak into the abdominal cavity. Therefore, the treatment that is commonly given is surgery to remove the appendix, which can help avoid complications. The symptoms of acute appendicitis include severe pain in the lower right abdomen, nausea, digestive problems and a reduced appetite.

Acute appendicitis can be diagnosed using abdominal X-rays.
Acute appendicitis can be diagnosed using abdominal X-rays.

Although it can affect anyone at any age, acute appendicitis is most commonly seen among teens and young adults. It is often triggered by an infection, trauma or an inflammation of a lymphatic gland. In many cases, the inflammation also results from a blockage caused by stool, parasites or a cancerous tumor.

Appendicitis usually occurs as a result of appendix inflammation.
Appendicitis usually occurs as a result of appendix inflammation.

The symptoms of acute appendicitis are usually severe because of the swelling and infectious fluids that build up in the appendix. In most cases, a dull pain develops around the naval area and becomes sharp as it moves into the lower right abdomen, where the appendix is located. Gently pressing down on the appendix will also result in pain. The condition can contribute to nausea, vomiting and a high fever, as well as a reduced or complete loss of appetite. Cramping, diarrhea and constipation are also commonly seen among patients who have acute appendicitis.

Acute appendicitis requires emergency surgery.
Acute appendicitis requires emergency surgery.

Appendicitis can be diagnosed by taking blood tests, urine tests, X-rays and ultrasounds. The nature of the condition is why all types of appendicitis are regarded as medical emergencies. Chronic appendicitis develops at a much slower pace than acute appendicitis, but the severity can be just as damaging if it is not dealt with in a timely manner. Another type is known as silent appendicitis, in which there is no pain when pressure is applied on the appendix.

During acute appendicitis, the appendix can burst open within 72 hours from when the initial pain began, causing the fluids to leak out into the abdominal cavity. This can lead to peritonitis, which in some cases can lead to death. Therefore, an appendix removal surgery, known as an appendectomy, is often performed to avoid these complications. Antibiotics and natural remedies such as cleansing the colon with an enema or a juice fast can help in controlling the symptoms.

Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency that occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed.
Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency that occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed.

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