As a refresher, the appendix is a small, tube-like bodily organ that protrudes from the colon and is something we can easily live without. And yet, to this day, it remains a medical mystery as to why it can make us incredibly sick despite serving no known purpose. That said, some healthcare experts suspect that the appendix helps prevent certain infections but is not immune to all of them. When this happens, and the appendix bursts, immediate medical attention is needed.
Causes of appendix pain
Three main causes could lead to pain in the appendix. They are listed here in order starting from most to least common:
- An abscess near or on the appendix
- A tumour inside or outside the appendix
Appendicitis, or irritation or infection of the appendix, is the most common cause of pain in the appendix. Everyone has a low risk of developing appendicitis during their lifetime (roughly around 8%), and it is most common in children between 10 to 19 years old and adults who are 18 to 25 years old. Moreover, appendicitis is the most common reason for emergency surgery among kids.
Appendicitis is not hereditary and cannot be passed on to others. Furthermore, there are no means to prevent or reduce your risk of getting it.
Infection of the appendix typically results when there is a blockage in the organ, and these can be caused by a wide range of issues, including:
- Bacteria and viruses
- Abdominal tearing
- Enlarged tissues
- Hardened faecal matter.
The blockage can lead to a ruptured appendix if these issues are left untreated. The rupture spreads the infection throughout the abdomen and the surrounding organs with deadly consequences.
What does appendix pain feel like?
Appendicitis generally feels like a stomach ache at first. It gradually moves down to the lower right quadrant of the torso between the hip bone and rib cage, where it feels like a tender, dull, and aching pain. It is also essential to be aware of your pain level, especially if it is something you have never experienced before. If you notice a worsening or new pain in the next several hours, it is advised to call your primary healthcare provider and go to the emergency room immediately.
Symptoms of appendicitis typically show up within the first 24 hours. If you experience any of the following, along with the pain mentioned above, consult a doctor as soon as possible:
- Urinary symptoms like difficulty or pain when urinating
- Upper and lower gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, indigestion, diarrhoea, constipation, and so on
- Chills, fever, or lethargy
- Abdominal symptoms such as distention or swelling, severe pain or cramping in other parts of the abdomen
It is important to note that appendicitis shares similar symptoms with other abdominal issues, so getting a medical consultation is critical to pinpoint if it is what you are experiencing.
When to see a doctor
Because appendicitis can have lethal consequences if left untreated, it is critical to go to the emergency room if the pain in your lower right side of the abdomen persists for more than six hours. Make sure also to contact your physician and inform them of any additional symptoms you may have to help better narrow down the cause of the pain.
Tests and treatment
Identifying appendicitis involves a series of tests, like taking a blood sample to check if an increase in white blood cell count points to an infection. An abdominal or pelvic X-ray or ultrasound CT scan may also be required to diagnose appendicitis in children.
Treating appendicitis is mainly done in two ways: antibiotics and surgery. Antibiotics are ideal for less severe cases, but an appendectomy or surgery to remove the appendix is generally necessary for most appendicitis cases. But if the appendix has not burst yet, your healthcare provider may opt for a laparoscopy or remove the appendix via a small cut in the belly button.
This procedure works for all ages with two to four weeks of recovery. Meanwhile, removing a ruptured appendix takes longer to heal as the surgeon will also have to remove all traces of infection that has spread throughout your abdomen.
If you ever notice potential signs of appendicitis, don’t hesitate to seek medical care as quickly as possible. The sooner appendicitis is detected and addressed with the proper treatment, the better the results and the quicker you recover. For appendix pain and everything else causing you concern, contact a certified doctor via the MYCLNQ app for quick answers in the comfort of your home. Apart from medical consultations, the app also provides key medical services such as private ambulance services and virtual ART tests in Singapore. Contact us today to learn more details!