Anybody who experiences a progressively worsening pain in the abdomen should seek medical attention. Other conditions may have similar symptoms, such as a urinary tract infection.
The site of your pain may vary, depending on your age and the position of your appendix. When you're pregnant, the pain may seem to come from your upper abdomen because your appendix is higher during pregnancy.
A blockage in the lining of the appendix that results in infection is the likely cause of appendicitis. The bacteria multiply rapidly, causing the appendix to become inflamed, swollen and filled with pus. If not treated promptly, the appendix can rupture.
Appendicitis can cause serious complications, such as:
- A ruptured appendix. A rupture spreads infection throughout your abdomen (peritonitis). Possibly life-threatening, this condition requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean your abdominal cavity.
- A pocket of pus that forms in the abdomen. If your appendix bursts, you may develop a pocket of infection (abscess). In most cases, a surgeon drains the abscess by placing a tube through your abdominal wall into the abscess. The tube is left in place for about two weeks, and you're given antibiotics to clear the infection.
Once the infection is clear, you'll have surgery to remove the appendix. In some cases, the abscess is drained, and the appendix is removed immediately.
Around half of all patients with appendicitis do not have typical symptoms, and this can make it hard to diagnose. For example, the pain is not always located in the right lower quadrant of the abdomen.
Additionally, other conditions may have similar symptoms, such as:
- Urinary tract infection
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Crohn's disease
- Kidney stones
Not everybody's appendix is in the same place. Sometimes it is located behind the colon, behind the liver, or in the pelvis.
A doctor will examine the patient and ask some questions related to their symptoms. They may apply pressure to the area to see if it worsens the pain.
If the doctor detects typical signs and symptoms, they will diagnose appendicitis. If not, further tests will be ordered.
Tests may include:
- Blood tests, to check for infection
- An MRI, CT, or ultrasound scan, to see if the appendix is inflamed
- Urine tests, to identify a kidney or bladder infection
Treatment options for Appendicitis
Depending on your condition, your doctor’s recommended treatment plan for appendicitis may include one or more of the following:
- Surgery to remove your appendix
- Needle drainage or surgery to drain an abscess
- Pain relievers
- IV fluids
- Liquid diet
In rare cases, appendicitis may get better without surgery. But in most cases, you will need surgery to remove your appendix. This is known as an appendectomy.
If you have an abscess that hasn’t ruptured, your doctor may treat the abscess before you undergo surgery. To start, they will give you antibiotics. Then they will use a needle to drain the abscess of pus.