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Is your stomachache appendicitis?

Is your stomachache a sign of appendicitis? One in 20 Americans will experience appendicitis, an emergency condition in which the appendix — a thin, four-inch tube attached to the large intestine — becomes inflamed. If you don’t seek treatment, your appendix could burst and leak infectious material into your body.

“A ruptured appendix can be fatal, so it is crucial to seek medical care if you have the symptoms of appendicitis,” says Jyotir Jani, M.D., a family medicine physician at Piedmont.

Who is at risk for appendicitis?

Anyone can develop appendicitis, though it is most common in young people between the ages of 10 and 30.

What causes appendicitis?

When the appendix becomes blocked by stool, a foreign object, an infection or cancer, it can become inflamed and require emergency medical treatment.

Symptoms of appendicitis

The symptoms of appendicitis can often be mistaken for other gastrointestinal issues.

“Appendicitis is often confused for indigestion, gas or constipation, as they are symptoms of the condition,” says Dr. Jani. “Some patients will have diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea, mistaking it for food poisoning or the stomach flu.”

If you have any of these common appendicitis warning signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Dull pain near your bellybutton or the upper abdomen that becomes more severe as it moves toward the lower right abdomen
  • Difficulty passing gas
  • Fever of 99 to 102 degrees
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling in the abdominal area

Less common symptoms that affect about 50 percent of people with appendicitis include:

  • Constipation with gas
  • Diarrhea with gas
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Intense abdominal cramps
  • Pain in anywhere in the abdomen, back or rectum
  • Vomiting

“If the pain is persistent and unrelenting, and is accompanied by nausea, lack of appetite and/or fever, seek medical attention at the emergency department or your primary care physician’s office immediately,” he says.

If you suspect you have appendicitis, do not:

  • Apply a heating pad to your abdomen
  • Eat or drink anything
  • Take antacids, laxatives or pain relievers

How is appendicitis treated?

In most cases, the appendix will need to be surgically removed through a procedure called an appendectomy. Most surgeries are now minimally invasive, allowing patients to return to normal activities after two to three weeks.

What is the appendix's purpose?

“The appendix does not appear to have a function, as there are no apparent consequences to removing it,” says Dr. Jani. “Some believe it has an immune function and others note that it can be a safe haven for good colonic bacteria.”

Can appendicitis be prevented?

“Unfortunately, we don’t know of an effective way to prevent appendicitis,” says Dr. Jani. “Some research shows the condition is less common in people who eat a diet high in fiber.”

If you are concerned you have appendicitis, seek treatment at an emergency department or call your primary care doctor’s office.

Dr. Jani practices at Piedmont Physicians Jefferson Family Practice, located at 528 Panther Drive, Jefferson, GA 30549. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Jani or one of our other primary care providers. Save time, book online.

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