Appendicitis may be caused by something trapped in the appendix, such as:
A piece of dried stool
A piece of food
Barium after an exam
Overgrowth of the lymph tissue of the appendix
The lining of the appendix continues to produce mucus. It has no place to go. Bacteria normally found in the intestines buildup and make toxins in the lining of the appendix. Pressure builds and causes severe pain in the abdomen. The wall of the appendix can break open. The contents of a ruptured appendix can spill into the abdominal cavity, which can lead to a life-threatening infection called
peritonitis. Appendicitis needs to be treated right away.
Appendicitis is more common in men and teenagers.
You are at increased risk of developing appendicitis if you have family members who have had appendicitis.
Symptoms usually happen quickly. Pain usually increases during a 6-12 hour period. Some or all of the following may be present:
Starts as discomfort around the belly button
Usually moves to the right side of the abdomen over several hours
May be in a different location if the appendix is not in the usual place
Increases as redness and swelling in the appendix builds
Worsens with sneezing, coughing, and deep breathing
The main treatment for appendicitis is a total
appendectomy. It is usually done as soon as possible.
Uncomplicated appendicitis can be treated with antiobiotics.
There are no current guidelines to prevent appendicitis. It starts quickly and the cause is usually unknown. Get medical care right away for severe abdominal pain. It will decrease the risk of rupture.
Appendectomy. American College of Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.facs.org/~/media/files/education/patient%20ed/app.ashx. Updated 2014. Accessed January 9, 2018.
Appendicitis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/acute-abdomen-and-surgical-gastroenterology/appendicitis. Updated January 2017. Accessed January 9, 2018.
Appendicitis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/appendicitis. Accessed January 9, 2018.
7/13/2007 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Styrud J, Eriksson S, Nilsson I, et al. Appendectomy versus antibiotic treatment in acute appendicitis. a prospective multicenter randomized controlled trial. World J Surg. 2006;30:1033-1037.
Last reviewed November 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 6/1/2018
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