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Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, a finger-like portion of the large intestine that generally hangs down from the lower right side of the abdomen. Although the appendix does not seem to serve any purpose, it can become diseased and, if untreated, can burst, causing infection and even death.
Appendicitis may occur after a viral infection in the digestive tract or when the tube connecting the large intestine and appendix is blocked or trapped by stool. Because of the risk of rupture, which may happen as soon as 48 to 72 hours after symptoms begin, appendicitis is considered an emergency and anyone with symptoms needs to see a physician immediately.
Appendicitis affects 7 percent to 8 percent of the US population and is the most common reason for a child to need emergency abdominal surgery.
Most cases of appendicitis occur between the ages of 10 and 30 years. Having a family history of appendicitis may increase a child's risk for the illness, especially in males, and having cystic fibrosis also seems to put a child at higher risk.
Pain in the right side of the abdomen is the most common symptom of appendicitis. This usually begins near the navel and moves down and to the right side of the body. The pain becomes worse when moving, taking deep breaths, coughing, sneezing, and being touched in the area.
The following are other common symptoms of appendicitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
It is important that persons with symptoms of appendicitis not take laxatives or enemas to relieve constipation, as these medications and procedures can cause the appendix to burst. In addition, persons should also avoid taking pain medication, as this can mask other symptoms the physician needs to be aware of.
The symptoms of appendicitis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for appendicitis may include the following:
Specific treatment for appendicitis will be determined by your physician based on:
Treatment may include: