The appendix is a narrow, small, finger-shaped portion of the large intestine that generally hangs down from the lower right side of the abdomen.
Appendicitis is a sudden inflammation of the appendix. Although the appendix does not seem to serve any purpose, it can become diseased and if untreated, can burst, causing infection and even death.
The cause of appendicitis is usually unknown. Appendicitis may occur after a viral infection in the digestive tract or when the tube connecting the large intestine and appendix is blocked or trapped by stool. It is thought that blockage of the opening of the appendix into the bowel by a hard, small stool fragment causes inflammation and infection of the appendix. The inflammation can cause infection, a blood clot, or rupture of the appendix.
The infected appendix then must be surgically removed before a hole develops in the appendix and spreads the infection to the entire abdominal space.
- Abdominal pain -- pain may begin in the upper-middle abdomen then develop to sharp localized pain
- Abdominal pain may be worse when walking or coughing
- Fever usually occurs within several hours
- Loss of appetite
- Rectal tenderness
- Chills and shaking
If you have these symptoms, see a doctor immediately! Because of the risk of rupture, which may happen as soon as 48 to 72 hours after symptoms begin, appendicitis is considered an emergency.