For a condition that is so common and that we have all heard of it, appendicitis is still strangely misunderstood. You probably know that appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, but what is the appendix? The appendix is a worm like structure that dangles down from the cecum, which is pouch like structure that connects the large intestine and the abdomen. The function of the appendix, if any, is not really understood, which is why most of us dont really hear much of this inconspicuous structure unless it begins to act up. An inflammation of this structure is known as Appendicitis. Most experts believe it to be a vestigial organ, or an evolutionary leftover with no real purpose. Others believe that it may be a leftover, but one that is still present for an immunological function. Whatever the purpose or lack of one may be, appendicitis is a very common health problem these days and generally requires emergency abdominal surgery. In severe cases the entire inflamed appendix may have to be removed either through laparoscopy or laparotomy. Appendicitis may either be acute or chronic and needs immediate treatment. If left untreated it can even rupture resulting in shock or peritonitis, which can be fatal for the sufferer. This can occur anytime between 48-72 hours once the symptoms start. A ruptured appendix is treated as a medical emergency as it may form an abscess or even spread to the entire abdomen. Appendicitis which is non-acute is generally referred to as rumbling appendicitis. On the other hand pseudo appendicitis is a medical condition that mimics the symptoms of appendicitis. Research has shown that almost 7-8% of people in the US are affected by this condition at some point in their lives. Studies have shown that almost 8.6% men and 6.7% women suffer from appendicitis during their lifetime. Some studies have also shown that there is a relation between skin color and appendicitis. White Caucasian populations are more prone to this condition in comparison to populations of African descent. In the initial stages of appendicitis the appendix tends to become occluded and distended with secretions. As the condition progresses the patient starts experiencing sharp lower abdominal pains.
The most prominent symptom of appendicitis is pain in the abdominal region and a loss of appetite. The patient usually experiences of pain around the navel region in the middle of the abdomen. This pain gradually starts moving downwards to the lower right side of the abdomen, which corresponds with the location of the appendix. Physical activities like moving, coughing, jumping and deep breathing can lead to an increase in this abdominal pain. Patients of appendicitis develop a fever and experience other symptoms like nausea, vomiting and appetite loss. As the condition progresses the pain also increases significantly. It is very important to treat appendicitis promptly as it can lead to rupture of the appendix, which can cause further complications like abdominal infections. This can make treatment even more difficult. Some of the other symptoms of appendicitis can even be seen in the form of constipation, diarrhea and chills with a low grade fever. Appendicitis can generally be diagnosed through the symptoms and with the help of physical and laboratory tests. Usually, abdominal CT scans, ultrasounds or diagnostic laparoscopy are done to diagnose this condition. A proper diagnosis is very important to rule out other medical conditions that may have similar symptoms like appendicitis such as gastritis, cirrhosis, food poisoning, tuberculosis, Crohn's Disease, kidney stones and so on. The biggest risk of appendicitis is the possibility of complications like infection and perforation of the appendix, which can be life threatening and hence treatment must be immediate.
The exact causes of appendicitis are not really understood, but there are some possible causes that most health experts agree upon. Because of the proximity of the appendix to the large intestine it is very likely that many cases of appendicitis are caused when small pieces of feces get trapped in the appendix. This causes an Even though the exact cause of appendicitis is unknown it is believed that blockages in the appendix by fecal matter, foreign matter and sometimes tumors can cause this condition. Thick mucus which builds up within the appendix or fecal matter from the cecum which enters the appendix can cause appendicitis. This stool and mucus may become hard and block the opening of the appendix. Once this blockage occurs bacteria and viruses start entering and infecting the walls of the appendix. Viruses, fungi, bacteria and various other parasites can cause infections which can lead to an inflammation in the tissues in the walls of the appendix. Cytomegalovirus, Yersinia species, Mycobacteria species, adenovirus, pinworms, Histoplasma species and actinomycosis can all cause such infections. When this infection starts spreading through the appendix walls it can lead to a rupture which can cause further infections to spread through the abdominal cavity. Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohns disease can also cause tissue inflammation which can result in appendicitis. Unhealthy eating habits and junk foods can also result in appendicitis. Food that is infected or prepared under unhygienic conditions can be one of the causes of this condition. Therefore it is very important to eat good hygienic food to avoid such health complications. Appendicitis is neither contagious nor hereditary. Young people between the age of 11 and 20 tend to be the most affected group with appendicitis. Occurrence of this condition also increases in the colder months between October and May.
An inflamed appendix is usually surgically removed under general anesthesia. This kind of surgery is known as appendectomy. Doctors prescribe pain killers and other antibiotics to treat infections irrespective of whether the appendix has ruptured or not. Laparoscopy or laparotomy are less invasive procedures that are also performed on appendicitis patients. Prevention is always better than cure and the best way to prevent appendicitis is by following a few simple dietary and lifestyle changes. A high fiber diet full of fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables is the best way to avoid this condition. Beetroot, carrot and cucumber juices are all very helpful in naturally preventing and treating appendicitis. Regular intake of water and other healthy fluids is very helpful in flushing out harmful substances and toxins from the body and also preventing constipation problems. Nutrition plays a vital role in the prevention of this condition and a daily diet which includes plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains is very helpful in minimizing the risk of appendicitis. There are also a number of home remedies which can help in preventing and treating appendicitis. Small quantities of green gram consumed thrice everyday is a useful treatment for acute appendicitis. One tablespoon of borage juice taken everyday is very helpful in treating the fever caused by appendicitis. Chronic appendicitis can also be treated by consuming a liter of buttermilk everyday. Whole wheat including wheat germ and bran should be consumed regularly to avoid appendicitis and various other digestive ailments.
For a person suffering from appendicitis, the first and most important thing to keep in mind is to avoid eating anything solid and stick to just drinking water to flush out harmful substances from the body. After the first three days, the patient should only be allowed to drink fresh fruit juices for the next few days. After 3-4 days the patient should be put on a complete fruit diet for the next 5-6 days. Once the symptoms start subsiding the patient should start following a well balanced diet that is full of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Water and fluid intake should also be high to avoid accumulation of toxins in the system. Foods like dairy products, meats and refined sugar products should be completely avoided while recovering from appendicitis. Simple recipes like brown rice with vegetables such as green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, beans and peas are easy to digest and are high in fiber which is very beneficial to appendicitis patients. Other preparations like chicken soup and steamed vegetable salads are also very good for recovering patients. Vitamin B, C and E supplements should also be given to patients regularly in addition to their daily diet. Vitamin E supplements help in the healing of the surgery wounds while Vitamin C helps in supporting the immune system and preventing infections. B vitamins on the other hand are excellent for providing increased body strength which is required to recover from this condition and also the surgery. Doctors also prescribe Lactobacillus acidophilus complex to re-establish healthy intestinal and digestive functioning.
The most important responsibility of caregivers is to make sure that the patient maintains a healthy well balanced diet. In addition to this, sometimes doctors even advise caregivers to give the patient regular enemas for faster detoxification and to speedup up the recovery process. Hydrotherapy can also be given over the abdominal region in addition to conventional treatment methods. It is also important for caregivers to monitor the patients condition regularly and report any sudden changes in the patients condition to the doctor at the earliest. Even simple activities like sitting up or lying down should be aided by the caregiver especially when the patient is recovering from abdominal surgery. Ice packs or cold compresses can be applied to the patients abdomen to ease post surgery pain. In addition to these, it is also the responsibility of the caregivers to teach the patients about taking care of their surgery wounds. Caretakers must make sure that during the recovery period the patient does not lift any heavy loads or objects or even drive a vehicle, as per the doctors advice. Once the patient has been sent home it is important to avoid taking too many pain medications, as this can make it difficult to ascertain whether the pain is getting better or worse. Increased use of laxatives and enemas should be avoided as they can increase the risk of rupturing the appendix. Only antibiotics and medications prescribed by the doctor should be taken.