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Appendicitis: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

Appendicitis: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

Removal of the appendix does not result in any long-term health problems
Representational image | Shutterstock

Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix, a finger-shaped organ that is two to four inches in size and is attached to the large intestine. The condition can affect anyone, but it is most common in children and adolescents. 


The most prevalent symptom for appendicitis is abdominal pain that can come and go but becomes constant and worse over time. Usually pressing the affected area, coughing or walking may worsen the pain. Some other symptoms include: 

  • Swelling of the abdomen 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Nausea, vomiting, indigestion, constipation and diarrhoea 
  • Difficulty in passing gas 
  • Low-grade fever 


The exact cause for appendicitis isn’t known yet, but it is thought to be caused by blockage of the junction between the intestine and appendix. The blockage could happen due to small pieces of faeces, foreign bodies, infections or even a tumour. 


It is tricky to diagnose appendicitis unless the individual is showing all the typical symptoms, which happens only in about half of the cases. What make it all the harder to diagnose are the slight variations in the location of the appendix in many individuals and the fact that the pain is quite like that felt in some other ailments. Ectopic pregnancy and menstrual pain also make it harder to diagnose appendicitis in people assigned female at birth (AFAB). 

A doctor will typically review symptoms and medical history along with conducting a physical examination. They could also prescribe tests such as urinalysis, blood tests or a pregnancy test, and imaging tests such as ultrasound or CT scan. 


Some mild cases of appendicitis can be treated with antibiotics alone, but the surgical removal of the appendix is considered the best approach to management. Two major types of surgery are usually performed: 

  • Laparoscopic or keyhole surgery is the preferred surgical method by doctors globally since individuals recover faster than with open surgery 
  • Open surgery may be required in the case of a burst appendix or lump formation on the organ. Having undergone any previous open abdominal surgery is also a factor for not opting for laparoscopy 

It is to be noted that the appendix does not perform any important function in the human body and its removal does not cause any long-term problem for individuals.

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