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How to Tell if Your Stomach Ache is Really Appendicitis

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How to Tell if Your Stomach Ache is Really Appendicitis

When that nagging pain in the pit of your stomach strikes and persists for days on end it can lead people into a panic, and understandably so. While most stomach aches are nothing more than a touch of indigestion or wind, no one wants to think they have an inflamed appendix, let alone a burst one.

One can’t be too careful when it comes to their health, especially today, where so much great medical care is available to most people. There’s no need to put off seeing the doctor about a bothersome ailment anymore, and doing so could save your life. But how do you know whether the pain you’re feeling is appendicitis or not?

Highly Unlikely

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Let’s start with the good news, which is that only about 7 percent of the population has ever had the displeasure of suffering from appendicitis in their lifetime. And while that’s great news for anyone overly concerned about that pain in their gut, a ruptured appendix can be life-threatening. The longer the condition goes unchecked, the more the risk of the appendix bursting, and that’s not something anyone wants.

Warning Signs

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There are, however, some early warning signs that can alert a person to potential appendicitis, just as long as they know which symptoms to look out for. The first of which is an unusually bad stomach ache that doesn’t feel like trapped wind or acid reflux. The pain often runs from the belly button to the lower right side of the abdomen. A simple CT scan can detect whether a person does have the condition as well as indicating how swollen the appendix is.

Other Signs

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According to Dan Gingold, MD, an emergency physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, different patients feel different sensations when it comes to appendicitis. While some people experience the chronic stomach pains previously mentioned, others only feel the pain when “walking, coughing, or going over a bump in a car.” But there are other warning signs that go together with the stomach pain which can offer another clue.

Feeling Nauseous

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Other telltale symptoms of appendicitis are extreme nausea and vomiting. While not every patient with appendicitis will experience those symptoms, they often go hand-in-hand with a swollen or inflamed appendix. For some people, the pain associated with the condition is felt in the lower pelvis, close to the bladder. When the inflamed appendix pushes against the bladder, it causes the person to need to go to the bathroom more than usual. Those people may feel like they need to urinate all the time, and when they do they may experience discomfort similar to a urinary tract infection.

Running a Fever

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The human body is an amazing thing as it gives a person all the warning signs they need to decide whether or not to seek medical assistance. Another two warning signs of appendicitis are running a fever and shivering. A fever usually means there’s inflammation somewhere in the body and the body responds to that by releasing several chemicals to “ring the alarm,” bringing additional cells to the area. But if you experience the next symptom, it’s time to call 911 immediately.

Deadly Symptom

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If a person experiencing severe stomach pain or cramps in the abdomen is also confused or disoriented it could mean that their appendix has burst, and that the infection may have entered their bloodstream. This condition is known as sepsis, and it can be fatal. Therefore, if you or someone you come into contact with seems confused and is holding their stomach, it’s a good idea to seek emergency medical attention as soon as possible.

Appendicitis Explained

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Appendicitis is a blockage or obstruction in the appendix. This blockage could result from a buildup of mucus or parasites, but is more commonly due to fecal matter. When the appendix is obstructed, bacteria can multiply at a quicker rate inside the organ, and that leads to the symptoms mentioned above. The appendix is located in the lower right side of the abdomen and is a narrow tube-shaped organ protruding from the large intestine.

Serves no Purpose

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Evolutionists have always been fascinated by the human appendix which serves no purpose at all within the body. So much mystery surrounds this little organ that no one even knows the purpose of the appendix in humans. Some posit that it has to do with protecting the immune system from infections, but the scientific data on that theory is thin.

Appendicitis During Pregnancy

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For pregnant women, especially those in the later stages of pregnancy when a significant amount of weight has been gained, appendicitis is even more of a concern. However, the symptoms of appendicitis are similar to pregnancy pains so the condition can, in rare cases, go unnoticed, threatening the well being of the expectant mother and the unborn baby, too. The growing baby pushes the uterus higher during pregnancy, and that means that the pain is felt in the upper abdomen and not the lower.

Medical Tests

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If a person arrives at their doctor or to the hospital with symptoms suggesting appendicitis, the medical professional will call for some tests to look for signs of infection. They include blood tests as well as urine tests to check for signs of a UTI or kidney stone. If the doctor’s suspicions are confirmed, they will then move to an abdominal ultrasound or CT scan to see if the appendix is inflamed.

Appendectomy

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If the doctor decides that the patient does have appendicitis, they will likely give them a quick course of antibiotic medication to kill as much of the infection as possible ahead of surgery. Then, if required, the patient will undergo a surgery called an appendectomy to remove the whole organ. However, there are two different types of appendectomies at the surgeon’s disposal.

Open Appendectomy

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The first type of appendectomy is an open appendectomy, whereby the surgeon makes one small incision in the lower right side of the abdomen. They then remove the infected appendix and close the wound with stitches. This procedure is favored by surgeons who wish to clean the abdominal cavity if the appendix has burst or if there is an abscess.

Laparoscopic Appendectomy

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A laparoscopic appendectomy differs from an open appendectomy in that the surgeon makes a few small incisions in the abdomen then inserts a laparoscope into the incisions. Also known as keyhole surgery, this procedure is less intrusive than the last one and doctors can tie off the appendix with stitches before removing it. However, it depends on a number of factors which are decided by the surgeon performing the procedure at the time.

Post Surgery

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When it comes to invasive surgeries, the removal of an appendix is considered to be a painful one regarding the recovery period after the operation. Some people take days to even get the pain under control and regain the ability to comfortably consume liquids. While others need additional courses of antibiotics to ensure that an existing infection doesn’t spread to other parts of the body or other organs.

 

More Men than Women

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While appendicitis only affects a low percentage of people, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says that it is the most common cause of abdominal pain that leads to surgery. Appendicitis most often occurs in people aged 10-30, but interestingly, it affects way more men than it does women, mainly during adolescence. However, there are steps that can be taken to lower one’s risk of potential appendicitis.

Eating Healthy

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According to the institute, people can take steps to prevent the onset of appendicitis, mainly by watching what they eat and ensuring they consume healthy foods. A diet rich in fiber for example, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, is one piece of advice. Things like raspberries, apples, pears, artichokes, and broccoli are some suggested foods rich in fiber.

Preventing Appendicitis

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Stool buildup is one of the factors most responsible for appendicitis. Therefore, people who suffer from conditions associated with inflammation or infection of the bowels should work closely with their medical professional to ensure they don’t end up with a burst appendix. Thankfully, only about 1 in 100,000 people will die from appendicitis in the United States annually.

Most Common Surgery

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As more than 250,000 appendectomies are performed annually, appendicitis is considered to be the most common abdominal surgical emergency in the United States today. The most common fatalities from the condition are infants and the elderly.

Peritonitis is Fatal

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Peritonitis is a condition associated with appendicitis, as it is the result of it going undiagnosed or untreated. Peritonitis is the inflammation of the tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen and supports the abdominal organs. The condition is caused by infection from bacteria or fungi which often comes from the appendix area. If it gets to that stage the chance of a fatality is more than likely.

Caution Pays

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Ultimately, the takeaway lesson from this is that people experiencing severe stomach pains, especially in the lower-right quadrant of the abdomen, should immediately seek medical assistance or make their way to an emergency room. If that stomach pain is accompanied by vomiting or feeling sick, it’s probably a good idea to call 911 and tell them the symptoms. In this way, the potentially fatal eventuality of a burst appendix will not be something one has to endure.

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