Acute Appendicitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Acute appendicitis is a common medical condition in our environment, which arises as a result of the inflammation of the appendix. When this happens, it can become filled with pus, causing pain. The pain noticed in this disease typically starts around the umbilicus (what some calls belly button) and then moves to the right side. The condition can be treated by the use of antibiotics or surgery, depending on the nature, but, if left untreated, can result in very serious complications.

Most persons or their friends might have been admitted or even had surgery for appendicitis.That’s how common it is.
I remember while growing up, I was told to chew my rice very well, avoid eating the seeds of guava because according to them, those things cause this condition or adults saying no to me when I ask for sweets. Yeah, they scared me a lot with ‘if you keep eating sweets at this rate, before you are 13 you’ll have appendicitis and you’ll have a surgery’.

I think it was the fear of surgery that drove their points home, imagine thinking about someone cutting you open and at a young age when you didn’t even know they have things that will make the surgery not to be painful and you’ll most likely be asleep when it’s going on.

But when I ask how not chewing your rice, eating guava seeds or eating sweets makes you have appendicitis, they didn’t have the answer. So my young mind always had those questions.
My young mind had those questions for years. I think we also are as inquisitive as I was then, we also want to know what causes appendicitis, and why some people have it and others don’t. Finally how to prevent it, so we don’t end up on the surgical table of a doctor that will cut our “stomachs” open with a knife.

What Is Appendicitis?

This is the medical name that refers to the inflammation or swelling of the appendix. Inflammation or swelling is the body’s way of protecting you against infections. The Appendix is a part of GIT (that is the part of the body that deals with the food you eat, and converts it to energy). It is a 3.5-4 inch long tube that is attached to the large intestine.

In summary, Appendicitis is the body’s reaction to protect you from an infected appendix.

Causes Of Acute Appendicitis

There are many possible causes of acute appendicitis. One is dietary sophistication. Studies have shown that acute appendicitis is the first serious disease that arises as a result of dietary sophistication and the consumption of fibre-depleted diets.

What this means is that, or local food consumed in Nigeria such eba, yam, abacha, Amala, abacha, Tuwo are fiber rich and protective against acute appendicitis, just the same was as they are too with colon cancer. Read about colon cancer here.

It simply means that once one starts eating our foreign processed oyinbo food, that the food will stay longer in the intestines, and form hard stools which which will take longer before it will be defecated, this might cause some of the stool to get stuck in the appendix thereby blocking it, which might eventually cause appendicitis.

For the above reason, acute appendicitis was more commonly seen mainly among the the rich in the past. However, but the consumption of foreign diets are not the only factors that can causing acute appendicitis. Other possible causes are:

The causes has been majorly divided into 4

  1. Societal status: As explained above, When we leave the old ways and start eating like the oyinbo, like when we stop eating our Nigerian foods like Eba, Garri, Amala with our Nigerian soups, yam, cocoyam, abacha etc, which are healthy and rich in fibre and start eating foods like pastries, cake, pancakes or other floor products, canned foods and other processed foods which don’t add bulk to the stool, stay longer in the intestines, then we are calling on appendicitis to come and have a field day.
  2. Obstruction: Obstruction of the lumen (which is when the the appendix like a tube is blocked) is the most common cause of Acute appendicitis. A lot of things can block the appendix. Examples are feaces, tumour, parasites etc, and when they block the appendix, it will cause the appendix to get inflamed and that leads to acute appendicitis.

3. Infection: When infections get to the appendix, it can appendicitis. Even though we don’t know which organisms in particular, a lot of organisms which are normally found in the intestines without causing any harm, can one day grow their household and community so they now come for war. Please this is not where we start considering agbo, goko cleanser or other washing and setting herbal drugs to flush things out. Eating good, clean and properly cooked food and taking care of our hygiene is enough to do the flushing for us.

  1. Upper respiratory tract infection: When we have sore throat, our immunity try to fight the sore throat, sometimes, it does overtime and end up causing changes in the appendix which will lead to appendicitis.

Symptoms Of appendicitis

A person with this disease would show the following symptoms;

Acute appendicitis
Man with abdominal pain, usually seen in this condition. Image credits: Sun online
  1. Sudden pain that begins on the right side of the lower abdomen
  2. Sudden pain that begins around the navel and shifts to the right lower abdomen
  3. Pain that worsens when you walk, cough etc
  4. Loss of appetite
  5. Nausea and vomiting
  6. Constipation or diarrhea
  7. Low fever that gets worse with days
  8. Bloating

Other conditions that could also give you this type of sudden abdominal pain, particularly in females is Ectopic pregnancy.

Treatment Of Appendicitis

You should see a doctor if you have at least 2-3 of the above symptoms of acute appendicitis, especially the first 2 symptoms showing the location of the pain. Generally, any severe abdominal pain requires a doctors attention.

The definitive treatment for acute appendicitis is basically a surgical procedure known as Appendectomy or appendicectomy. It is the surgical removal of the appendix. It is not a very complex surgery, and you would generally be OK after the surgery. However, there are situations where a surgery is not done, all which will depend on the judgement of your doctor.

Appendicitis presents in two forms

  1. Acute appendicitis
  2. Chronic appendicitis

Note that:

  1. There is no herbal drug that cures acute appendicitis. None!
  2. The appendix is almost entirely “useless”, so the removal of the appendix won’t harm or affect you or your functions.

Complications of Appendicitis

There are complications that can arise with delay in removal of the appendix. It can lead to “Ruptured Appendix” where the appendix tears open due to excessive swelling thereby spreading infection throughout your abdomen, leading to a serious condition known as Peritonitis.

A Ruptured Appendix is a life threatening condition that requires surgery to remove the appendix and clean your abdomen, in order to prevent death.

Prevention of Acute Appendicitis

From what we have been able to understand so far about what causes acute appendicitis, We can come up with the ways to prevent it.

From dietary modifications, like eating less processed food and substituting less residue diets with our local high fibre high residue diets. And going to see a doctor whenever we are ill.

Appendicitis is very common in our society

Hopefully you understand better now?. Stay Educated!

Feel free to ask any questions you may have below.

Authors

  • Ofoka Chizoba attended the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Teaching Hospital, UNTH in Ituku Ozalla, Enugu State.

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