A stomach ache can have several reasons. The most prominent among them is inflammation of the appendix. Appendix is a worm-shaped organ protruded at the junction of the small intestine and the large intestine. The condition is known as appendicitis, and it is caused due to a bacterial infection.
Even though appendicitis can affect people of any age, it is often found among teenagers and youngsters between the ages of 20 and 30.
An early diagnosis and treatment is feasible if you are well informed of the common symptoms of appendicitis.
Abdominal pain is the most important symptom of appendicitis. But, this kind of stomach pain has some peculiarities. As the appendix is located at the lower right side of the stomach, the pain felt on the right side is to be specially noted. In the initial stages of the disease, you will begin to feel some pain around the navel, which, later, will shift to the right side of the stomach. You will experience repeated bouts of intense pain. The pain will aggravate when you cough or apply pressure on the right side of the stomach with your fingers.
Pain accompanied by vomiting
If you are suffering from appendicitis, the pain is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever and lack of appetite. Your pulse rate increases and your bound to feel feverish. However, the increase in pulse rate and fever are absent in 20 percent of patients. Lack of appetite and vomiting is more commonly found among children.
Pain depends on the position
In many cases, the appendix is found to have moved away from its original position. If the appendix has moved to the rear of the large intestine (retro cecal) or to the pelvic region or to the bottom of liver, the position of the pain and other symptoms can change accordingly. If the appendix has settled behind the large intestine, you are likely to experience acute back ache and pain on the right leg, instead of a stomach ache. On the other hand, if the appendix is at the pelvic region, you won’t experience any significant pain. When the inflamed appendix wounds the rectum, the patient will have diarrhea. If it wounds the urinary bladder, patient will experience frequent urination and pain.
The intensity of the pain may vary not only according to the position of the appendix, but also corresponding to the degree of inflammation and complexities involved. When complexities occur, the pain would spread all over the stomach and would be more intense. In some people, the pain and other symptoms are not so evident. Often for the elderly, pain does not shift to the right side of stomach, while stomach pain, fever and vomiting is common for children.
Diagnosis is not a simple process
Appendicitis cannot be diagnosed by blood tests alone. It is a complex process, which involves a detailed study into the nature of pain and other related symptoms, rate of increase in white blood cells, urine test, ultrasound scan and CT scan.
Care begins from home
If all the symptoms indicate that you might possibly have appendicitis, immediately abstain from food and water intake, lest it becomes a hindrance for giving you anesthesia in case an emergency surgery is required. Besides, complete fasting will give rest to your intestines, which is essential for cure.
Two types of surgery
Surgical removal of appendix is the most effective treatment for appendicitis. There are two types of surgery. Open stomach surgery (appendicectomy) and keyhole surgery (laparoscopic appendicectomy). Keyhole surgery, though more expensive, involves less postoperative pain and cures faster. This kind of surgery facilitates a comprehensive survey of the inner stomach. The surgeon performs appendicectomy by making a small incision on the lower right side of the stomach. There are some who hold the opinion that open surgery is better.
How can we avoid appendicitis?
Increase the intake of fiber rich food to avoid appendicitis. The fiber can relieve constipation, and prevent blocks caused by congealed faeces collected in the appendix.
Not all stomach aches are appendicitis
Stomach ache, vomiting, mild fever and lack of appetite can be the symptoms of other diseases too. What is distinct about appendicitis is the order in which these symptoms occur. It begins with stomach ache, with vomiting and fever following. Lower abdominal pain can have other reasons too such as urinary infection, bladder stone, mesenteric adenitis (an inflammation of lymph nodes), and among women, infection in right ovary and ovarian artery and conception in ovarian artery among women.
(The author is a consultant surgeon at Santhi Niketan, KVS Hospital, Ponkunnam)