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Acute Appendicitis

Acute Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, a small, fingerlike tube that hangs from the lower right side of the large intestine. The purpose of the appendix is not known. It usually becomes inflamed because of an infection or an obstruction in the digestive tract. If untreated, an infected appendix can burst and spread the infection throughout the abdominal cavity and into the bloodstream.

What are the symptoms?
  • Abdominal pain, usually starting just above the belly button and then moving to the right lower side of the abdomen
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Pain when the right side of the abdomen is touched
  • Low-grade fever that may worsen as the illness progresses
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Change in normal bowel pattern
If you have symptoms of appendicitis, do not take enemas or laxatives to relieve constipation. These medicines increase the chance that the appendix will burst. Also, avoid taking pain-relief medicines before seeing your doctor, because these medications can mask appendicitis symptoms and make diagnosis difficult.
 
Your doctor will review your medical history, especially any digestive illnesses. Your doctor will ask about your current digestive symptoms, including details about your most recent bowel movements: the timing, frequency, character (watery or hard), and whether the stool was streaked with blood or mucus.

Your doctor will examine you and check for pain in your lower right abdomen. After the physical examination, your doctor will order blood tests to check for signs of infection and a urinalysis to rule out a urinary tract problem. Your doctor may order an ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scan to help confirm the diagnosis.

Most people will seek medical attention within 12 to 48 hours because of the abdominal pain. In some cases, a low level of inflammation has existed for several weeks before a diagnosis is made.
 
The standard treatment is to remove the appendix, called an appendectomy, and should be done as soon as possible to reduce the risk of the appendix rupturing. Appendicitis is an emergency, and it requires immediate attention to avoid the risk of a ruptured appendix.

People usually are given antibiotics intravenously (into a vein) during surgery. The antibiotic is continued until the day after surgery. If the appendix ruptured, the person will need to take antibiotics and stay in the hospital longer.
 
There is no way to prevent appendicitis. However, appendicitis is less common in people who eat foods high in fiber, such as fresh vegetables and fruits. If you think that you might have appendicitis, call your doctor immediately so that he or she can assess your condition and prescribe the proper treatment to avoid the risk of a ruptured appendix.

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