All parts of the body have different functions, but experts are still confused about the appendix. Some doctors believe that the appendix helps combat infections, but they are not completely certain. People who had their appendix removed were able to live normally without the worm-shaped organ.
If the appendix gets infected or inflamed, prompt treatment is necessary. It can burst and release dangerous bacteria into your body, causing an infection called peritonitis. A ruptured appendix is also a fatal situation, and it is important to recognize its early symptoms so you can receive medical treatment right away.
There are also other infections and medical conditions that have symptoms mimicking appendicitis. Knowing the underlying cause will help you determine the right treatment to alleviate symptoms and prevent the problem from occurring.
Where is Your Appendix?
The appendix is a small worm-like organ attached to your large intestine. Sitting at the large intestine and small intestine junction, it is a thin tube about two to four inches long. The exact location differs from one person to another, but it is usually located in the right lower abdomen, between the upper part of your pelvic bone and the navel.
Even though the appendix is a part of your digestive tract, it doesn’t have an important function, and you can survive without it. Some believe that it helps the immune system combat infections within the body.
Causes and Symptoms of Appendicitis
Appendicitis is an inflammation or infection of the appendix. An obstruction or blockage may result from the accumulation of mucus, fecal matter, or parasites. Bacteria can multiply rapidly inside the organ and cause swelling and irritation, resulting in appendicitis. The pain usually starts around the navel area and becomes severe. If not treated immediately, the appendix can burst and cause serious complications.
It is vital to recognize the early symptoms of appendicitis. These may include:
- Pain that starts on the right side of your lower abdomen
- Pain that moves to your lower right abdomen and worsens when you walk, cough, or make jarring activities
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low-grade fever
Symptoms in children include vomiting, nausea, abdominal swelling or bloating, tender abdomen, and pain in the lower right side of their abdomen.
Treatment for Appendicitis
To diagnose appendicitis, your doctor may order X-rays or a CT scan. Other tests and procedures include a physical exam, urine test, and blood test.
Treating appendicitis usually involves surgery to remove the infected organ. Depending on the severity of your condition, your surgeon may perform a laparoscopic appendectomy or an open appendectomy.
In this procedure, the doctor will make a few incisions. They will insert a video camera and special surgical tools to remove the appendix. The camera will show the images on a screen to let the surgeon see the abdomen.
When they locate your infected organ, they will tie it off and remove it. Then, they clean, close, and dress the small cuts. This type of surgery lets you recover fast with less scarring and pain. It may also be better for the elderly and people who are overweight.
In an open appendectomy, the doctor makes one incision in the lower right side of the abdomen, about two to four inches long. The infected organ is reached by cutting through the layers of skin, connective tissue, and muscle. Once the appendix is removed, your doctor will close the wound with stitches.
This procedure is required if the appendix has ruptured or if there is an abscess. It also allows your surgeon to clean the abdominal cavity.
Your doctor may tell you to stay in the hospital for a day or two after your appendectomy. To speed up your healing process:
- Avoid or limit strenuous activities for at least two weeks.
- Apply pressure or place a pillow over your abdomen when you cough, move or laugh to reduce pain.
- Get enough sleep to speed up your recovery. Make sure that you rest whenever you feel tired.
- Call your doctor if you are still experiencing pain despite taking pain medications. Don’t forget to discuss returning to school or work.
- Once you are ready, start moving slowly and take short walks.
Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. Keep the incisions clean and watch for any signs of infection, including swelling or redness around the incision, chills, fever, stomach cramps, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea.
What Can Be Confused With Appendicitis Pain?
People with other ailments may develop symptoms similar to those of appendicitis.
Digestive Gas Pain
According to Web MD, there are two ways to make gas: when the bacteria in your digestive tract help you digest food, and when you swallow air while eating or drinking. You release gas through your anus (flatulence) or your mouth (burping).
Foods that aren’t digested properly move from your small intestine to the large intestine. From there, bacteria help with digestion, making carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen. Foods that are most likely to produce gas include:
- Whole-grain foods
- Vegetables (cabbage, onions, and broccoli) and fruits
- Dairy products
- Fruit drinks and soft drinks.
Gas issues are treated by making changes in your diet and swallowing less air when eating or drinking. Depending on the underlying cause of gas pain, your doctor may prescribe medications such as probiotics, antacids, beano, and lactase products.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Around 3 to 20 percent of Americans experience symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Also known as irritable colon or spastic colon, IBS affects the large intestine, and its symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, cramping, bloating, constipation, gas, and mucus in the stool.
The exact cause of IBS isn’t known. Still, possible causes include inflammation in the intestines, infection, changes in bacteria in your gut, abnormalities in the nerves, and muscle contractions in your intestine.
- Your doctor may tell you to make lifestyle changes before prescribing medications. Perform regular exercises, increase your intake of probiotics, and eat smaller meals.
- Avoid spicy or deep-fried foods and cut back on caffeinated drinks. Manage stress levels and get enough sleep.
- Fennel seeds are effective when it comes to treating IBS. Add one tablespoon of crushed fennel seeds to a glass of hot water. Let it sit for 10 minutes and drink this herbal tea.
Kidney stones form when leftover urine becomes concentrated, allowing the minerals to turn into crystals. Signs and symptoms include difficulty urinating, pain in the back and side, pain radiating to your groin and lower abdomen, red or brown urine, and foul-smelling urine. You may also experience fever, urinating in small amounts, and a persistent need to urinate.
- Drink 12 glasses of water a day to keep your body hydrated. Dark yellow urine means that your body is dehydrated. You can also add lemon juice to prevent calcium stones from forming. It will also help to break up small stones.
- Apple cider vinegar has acetic acid that can help dissolve kidney stones. In a glass of 8 oz. water, add two tablespoons of ACV and drink this mixture daily.
- Pomegranate juice is useful for flushing toxins and stones from the body. It is also rich in antioxidants that can help keep your kidneys healthy.
The signs and symptoms of diverticulitis can be mistaken as appendicitis pain. Diverticula are small, bulging pouches or pockets that can develop in the lining of the digestive tract, usually found in the lower part of the colon. They form when naturally weak spots in the colon give way under pressure.
When these bulges become infected or inflamed, diverticulitis occurs. Symptoms of this disease include feeling bloated, lower abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, fever, and constipation. Other factors that may increase one’s risk of developing diverticulitis include smoking, aging, lack of exercise, obesity, a diet low in fiber and high in animal fat, and certain medications.
- Eat more foods rich in fiber, such as fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. These foods will soften waste material, reducing the pressure in your large intestine. This diet also lowers the risk of diverticulitis.
- When cleansing the colon with antibiotics, you are also destroying the healthy bacteria in your gut. This leaves you exposed to further infection or inflammation. Consider eating plenty of yogurt and other probiotic-rich foods.
- Snacking on corn, seeds, and nuts is one of the easiest remedies for diverticulitis. According to a study, incorporating these into your diet will help improve diverticulitis symptoms.
Periodic Fever Syndrome
Also known as autoinflammatory syndromes or autoinflammatory diseases, periodic fever syndromes are a set of disorders that cause recurrent episodes of fever without infectious cause. According to Cleveland Clinic, many of these syndromes are hereditary and caused by a mutation (mistake or defect) in a gene.
Familial Mediterranean fever is the most common genetic autoinflammatory syndrome. It causes short episodes of fever, serositis, and abdominal pain. FMF can’t be cured, but it can be treated with long-term use of colchicine.
Many women develop at least one fluid-sac called cyst during their lifetime. These sacs are usually painless and do not cause any symptoms. They usually go away on their own, but a large ovarian cyst can cause bloating heaviness, or fullness in your abdominal area, and pelvic pain. Treatment for ovarian cysts depends on the size and type of cyst, your age, and your symptoms.
- Your doctor may tell you to wait and see if the cyst goes away after a few months if there are no symptoms. Otherwise, he or she may recommend medications to prevent ovarian cysts from recurring.
- Drink two to three cups of chamomile tea to relieve pain and discomfort. You can also drink beetroot juice mixed with one tablespoon of aloe vera to reduce symptoms of ovarian cysts.
- If the cyst is large or continues to grow through three menstrual cycles, surgery may be needed.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
One of the medical conditions that have symptoms similar to those of appendicitis is a pelvic inflammatory disease. PID is an infection of female reproductive organs and occurs when bacteria spread from the vagina to the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.
PID doesn’t usually show symptoms, but when they develop, these may include pain in the pelvis and lower abdomen, heavy vaginal discharge, bleeding or pain during intercourse, fever with chills, and pain or difficulty urinating.
- A combination of antibiotics will help treat pelvic inflammatory disease. It is also recommended to have your partner checked and treated to reduce the risk of reinfection. Avoid sexual intercourse until the infection is completely gone.
- Baking soda is an excellent home remedy for PID. It contains alkaline compounds that can help lower acidity and alkalize your large intestine and other organs. Add one-half teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and drink it on an empty stomach once a day.
- The curcumin in turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It can help relieve symptoms and fight the infection. Add one teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of hot milk and consume it once a day.
This painful disorder occurs when the endometrium, tissue that lines the uterus inside, grows outside the uterus. It commonly involves the lining of your pelvis, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and large intestine.
The common symptoms of endometriosis include pelvic pain, cramping before your period, pain with urination or bowel movements, pain during intercourse, and excessive bleeding. This condition can also cause difficulty in getting pregnant or impaired fertility.
- Your doctor may recommend medications to relieve pain, improve fertility, slow the growth of endometriosis tissue, and prevent it from occurring.
- If conservative approaches fail, surgery may be required. This procedure involves removing or destroying areas of endometriosis tissue to improve fertility and symptoms.
- Relieve discomfort at home by taking warm baths, applying a heating pad, and performing regular exercises.
Also known as coeliac or sprue, celiac disease is an immune reaction to gluten, a protein found in barley, wheat, and rye. When the body’s immune system overreacts to food containing gluten, it can damage the lining of your small intestines and prevent your body from absorbing nutrients.
The common symptoms of celiac disease include anemia, rashes, headaches and fatigue, loss of bone density, joint pain, heartburn, and acid reflux. You may also experience nervous system injury, damage to dental enamel, diarrhea, irritability, and weight loss.
- Avoid anything that contains gluten. It is usually found in wheat, spelled, barley and rye. It can also be present in grain products, bread, and imitation meats, desserts, ketchup, ice cream, and hundreds of other foods. Read the labels carefully before purchasing items.
- If it is detected that you have any deficiencies, your doctor may prescribe supplements including iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12, D, and K.
- Follow your doctor or nutritionist’s recommendations and maintain a gluten-free diet.
Another medical condition that mimics the symptoms of appendicitis is Crohn’s disease. It is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the digestive tract. It causes severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, and malnutrition. People with this condition may also experience mouth sores, blood in stools, and drainage near or around the anus.
According to Mayo Clinic, the inflammation often spreads deep into the layers of bowel tissue, and it can be both debilitating and painful.
- There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but it can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, including oral 5-aminosalicylates and corticosteroids.
- Immune system suppressors target the immune system to reduce inflammation.
- Take probiotic supplements that contain both L. Bifidus and L. acidophilus organisms. Talk to your doctor about the proper dosage.
Colon cancer usually starts as adenomatous polyps or small, noncancerous clumps of cells. Some of these polyps become colon cancers over time. Signs and symptoms include persistent abdominal discomforts, such as gas, cramps or pain, rectal bleeding, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and changes in your bowel habits.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor immediately.
- Your doctor may recommend removing polyps, minimally invasive surgery, or endoscopic mucosal resection for early-stage colon cancer.
- Your doctor may recommend partial colectomy, lymph node removal, or surgery to create another way for wastes to leave your body if cancer has grown through or into your colon.
- In advanced cancer cases, treatments include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted drug therapy.
Appendicitis is the inflammation of your appendix, a finger-shaped organ located on the lower right side of your abdomen. This condition occurs when there is a blockage in the lining of your appendix that leads to infection.
Some of its symptoms include pain on the right side of the lower abdomen, nausea, vomiting, and low-grade fever. Treating this condition usually involves surgery, and you may be given some antibiotics to prevent infection.
Other medical conditions mimic the symptoms of appendicitis. If the pain is unbearable or other symptoms are present, consult a doctor right away for a proper diagnosis and the right treatment.