When my son was six, he experienced a horrible flu bug. Maybe it was the norovirus—to this day, I’ll never know. After three days of fever, throwing up, extreme fatigue, and numerous calls to the nurse line, I took my son to the pediatrician. “We must get to the bottom of this,” I demanded. The pediatrician had my son jump off a step to see if the sudden movement caused him any pain. Why? My doctor was checking for appendicitis.
So what is an appendix?
Your appendix is a finger-shaped pouch on right side of your abdomen—you can live with it or without it. A viral infection or a piece of stool clogging the opening can cause appendicitis. If your appendix bursts, it can lead to a serious infection in the abdominal wall and pelvis—even life-threatening sepsis (inflammation throughout the entire body). That’s why appendicitis is a life threatening emergency.
But sometimes people confuse appendicitis with the flu, kidney stones, or a urinary tract infection. According to Michelle Walker, DNP, CRNP, of Robinwood Family Practice, the big tip-off is sudden, sharp pain in the abdomen, as you’ve never felt before. The pain begins at the belly button and travels to your right side, and it gets worse when you jump or cough. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, and tenderness when you press on the abdomen.
Appendicitis usually happens to people between the ages of 10 and 30. Doctors can use blood tests, urine tests, and a CAT scan to pinpoint appendicitis. If you have appendicitis you’ll most likely need your appendix removed—and that means surgery.
Michelle says that most appendectomies can be done laporoscopically—making small incisions around the belly button and using a miniature camera and surgical instruments to remove the appendix. If your appendix ruptures, the surgeon will perform an “open” appendectomy, complete with a larger scar and a longer recovery period. The moral of the story: know the signs of appendicitis and seek medical treatment pronto!
By: Anne Gill