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Appendicitis Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Appendix is a sudden inflammation of the appendix – a small growth in the form of worm ( appendix vermiformis ) located at the beginning of the large intestine, abdominal lower right side. Appendicitis is often the result of an obstruction of this small anatomical structure by feces, mucus or thickening of the lymphoid tissue present. It can also be caused by a tumor that obstructs the base of the appendix. The appendix becomes swollen, colonized with bacteria and may eventually start too necrotic.

The crisis most often occurs between the ages of 10 and 30 years. It affects one in 15, and a little more often men than women.

A useless organ? For a long time it was believed that the appendix was useless. It is now known that it produces antibodies (immunoglobulin) like several other organs. It plays a role in the immune system, but since it is not alone in making antibodies, its removal does not weaken the immune system.


Appendicitis must be treated quickly , otherwise the appendix could break down. This usually causes peritonitis , that is, an infection of the peritoneum, the thin wall that surrounds the abdominal cavity and contains the intestines. Peritonitis can in some cases be fatal and requires emergency medical intervention.

When to consult

If you experience severe, persistent pain in the lower abdomen , near the navel, or to the right, with fever or vomiting, go to the emergency room.

In children and pregnant women, the location of the appendix may vary slightly. If in doubt, do not hesitate to consult a doctor.

Before going to the hospital, avoid drinking. This could delay surgery. If you are thirsty, moisten your lips with water. Do not take laxatives: they may increase the risk of splitting the appendix.


The symptoms of appendicitis may vary slightly from one person to another and evolve over time;

  • The first symptoms of pain usually occur near the navel and gradually move to the lower right of the abdomen;
  • The pain gradually increases, usually over a period of 6 to 12 hours. It ends up locating midway between the navel and the pubic bone, on the right side of the abdomen.

When pressing on the abdomen near the appendix and releasing the pressure suddenly, the pain increases. Coughing, an effort like walking or even breathing can also make the pain brighter.

The pain is often accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Loss of appetite ;
  • Low fever;
  • Constipation, diarrhea or gas;
  • Bloating or rigidity in the abdomen.

In young children, the pain is less localized. In older adults, the pain is sometimes less severe.

If the appendix breaks, sometimes the pain subsides momentarily. However, the abdomen quickly becomes bloated and rigid . At this point, it is a medical emergency .

People at risk

  • The crisis most often occurs between the ages of 10 and 30;
  • Men are slightly more at risk than women.


A healthy and diversified diet facilitates intestinal transit. It is possible, but not proven, that such a diet decreases the risk of appendicitis.

Medical treatments

It sometimes happens (in 15 to 20% of cases) that the removal of the appendix reveals that it was normal. This is because it is often difficult to establish an accurate diagnosis and the risk of missing out on appendicitis – with the dangerous complications that this entails – makes a certain percentage of errors inevitable. But removal of the appendix does not cause any undesirable side effects.

Only surgery can treat an appendicitis crisis .

The classic operation is to remove the appendage by an incision a few inches near the right iliac fossa, a few centimeters above the groin. The surgeon can also proceed by laparoscopy, by making three incisions of a few millimeters in the abdomen and by inserting a small camera in one of them.

Depending on the severity of the infection, patients will be able to leave the hospital the next day or in the days following their operation. The incision heals within a few weeks.

Complementary approaches

Complementary approaches have no place in the treatment of appendicitis.

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