Sometimes the smallest thing can be a pain in your side.
Take the appendix, a little tube attached to your large intestine. It produces some fluid, but doesn’t have a significant biological function.
It may be small, but believe me, you’ll know if it gets inflamed.
Sometimes the opening to the appendix becomes blocked, which causes it to swell with fluid it can’t expel. Bacteria quickly grows in the swollen appendix, which can burst if not treated in time.
When your appendix is irritated or blocked, the first thing you’ll feel is sudden, dull pain that begins near your belly button that may eventually move lower and to the right side of your abdomen.
This pain will become sharply severe within hours, and will feel worse if you walk, cough, sneeze or make similar movements.
Other early symptoms of appendicitis can include:
Appendicitis is an emergency. If you or a loved one experience these symptoms, go to an emergency room as soon as possible.
What’s going on?
Appendicitis can be caused by a number of things besides a blockage of your appendix opening, such as a gastrointestinal infection that causes the tissue in the wall of your appendix to swell; inflammatory bowel disease – even abdominal trauma can irritate your appendix.
It’s most likely to strike people in their teens and 20s, but can happen to anyone.
Physicians will verify your appendicitis by doing a physical exam as well as blood, urine or ultrasound tests, MRI or CT scans. Once they diagnose the problem, appendicitis is usually treated by surgically removing the appendix. If caught early enough, however, the infection may be cured with antibiotics.
If necessary, it’s best to remove the inflamed appendix before it bursts, as that rupture can cause a number of additional, potentially life-threatening problems as the bacteria, pus and feces spread through the body. It can take between 36 to 72 hours for an inflamed appendix to burst.
Dr. Priya Jimmy is an internal medicine physician with Elmhurst Clinic. View her profile and schedule an appointment online.
Edward-Elmhurst Health emergency departments — located in Elmhurst, Naperville and Plainfield—combine modern technology with comfort and care. Get locations and learn more.
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