Signs and symptoms of appendicitis, Latest Health News - The New Paper

Signs and symptoms of appendicitis

The sharp pain that comes with appendicitis is more serious than people think. Simply brushing it off can cause late detection, stabbing pain or even death. A doctor's diagnosis of appendicitis needs to happen in a timely manner for early detection before the appendix bursts. Dr Julian Ong, consultant general and colorectal surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, shares more.

What is appendicitis?

Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix, which is a small structure that sits at the junction between the small and large intestine.

It often causes stomach pain that might require surgery.

This can happen to anyone, with a lifetime risk of almost 7 per cent for females and almost 9 per cent for males.

Though the cause is not always known, many cases occur due to bacterial or viral infections.

Signs and symptoms

You might first feel pain at the lower right side of your abdomen or even develop a fever.

"Pain from acute appendicitis typically starts as a dull ache in the centre of the abdomen," Dr Ong said.

It can sometimes be mistaken for illnesses such as food poisoning because patients tend to also get fever, nausea and vomiting.

As appendicitis progresses, the inflamed appendix irritates the inner lining of the abdominal cavity and this leads to a localised pain in the right lower abdomen.

This pain is usually persistent and worsens in severity compared to benign tummy aches which are episodic.

Very occasionally, patients may experience long-term right lower abdominal pain and all investigations seem normal. Diagnostic laparoscopy and laparoscopic appendicectomy can successfully treat this pain and a histological examination of the appendix can confirm if it is chronic appendicitis.

What happens when the appendix ruptures?

When it ruptures, faecal material, bacteria and pus from the infected appendix and intestines enter the abdominal cavity, which is usually a sterile environment.

There are usually two outcomes - the infection being contained and causing appendiceal phlegmon, or the infection being free in the abdominal cavity.

The latter can be life-threatening. Thankfully, it can be treated with surgery when diagnosed early.

This article was first published in Shape (