Appendicitis is a medical term meaning inflamed appendix. It has become commonly known the world over. It can occur in all age groups. The problem is that its symptoms are similar to other stomach infections and can be easily misdiagnosed. Since the symptoms are common with gastroenteritis, it is often misdiagnosed as such and vice versa. Given below is a list of appendicitis symptoms and methods used in its diagnosis.
I Appendicitis Symptoms
1. Abdominal pain
Appendicitis usually begins with a sudden pain at or beside the belly button (navel). This region is known as the umbilicus. This pain will persist for several hours (4 to 48 hours) increasing in intensity. It will slowly shift from the navel to the right side of the abdomen and get concentrated just above the right hip region. The pain usually gets localized right above the point where the appendix is located. This point is called the McBurney’s Point.
Internally, this point roughly point to the position where the appendix is joined to the Cecum. It may take a day for the pain to get localized at this point.
2. Additional symptoms
The person will also have a light fever which may increase with the passage of time. Besides this, he will also suffer from lack of appetite, vomiting and nausea. He will either have constipation or suffer an attack of diarrhea. Some people though may not have any bowel trouble at all. Children who have these symptoms may not be able to describe their suffering in detail and just complain of abdominal pain. Hence if they complain of abdominal pain for long then they must be taken to the hospital.
The patient will prefer to be still or lie down. Any movement or jerk will result in shooting pain which will make the patient immobile. Even coughing will induce sharp pain. There will also be pain during defecation and urination. Younger children may have a swollen abdomen which will be painful when touched. They may also vomit and refuse food. Similarly pregnant women who suffer from appendix infection will find it difficult to explain their problem.
To confirm appendicitis, the doctor will apply slight pressure over the painful area. When he releases the pressure suddenly, there is an intense pain and the patient may even wince. The patient will also stiffen his abdominal muscles as a reflex action and also as a measure to protect the abdomen. The abdominal region will also be rigid and respond to the pressure with pain. Muscular spasms are common. The doctor will also conduct a Rovsing’s Sign test. He will apply a sharp pressure a couple of inches to the lower left of the navel. He will then release the pressure suddenly. When he does this, the patient will experience an intense pain on the right side of the navel at about a couple of inches towards the lower right. This is used to confirm appendicitis.
II Symptoms Of Ruptured Appendix
When the appendix ruptures from infection, it spreads the infection to the Peritoneum. This is a thin skin like membrane covering the inner side of the abdomen. When it gets infected a condition called Peritonitis occurs. For a short while after the appendix ruptures, the patient will experience a decrease in pain. But Peritonitis causes inflammation of the abdomen. This will also result in abdominal distention, a bulging of the abdomen. This is marked by the distinct pot belly like appearance. The patient experiences severe pain. It is accompanied by a high fever with temperature reaching near or above 104 degrees. The patient will prefer to keep still as any movement will result in shooting pain.
III Diagnosing Appendicitis
The doctor will not rely on the pain alone to diagnose appendicitis as the symptoms are common with several other types of stomach complaints. To eliminate other conditions, the doctor may order:
1. X-rays – To check the condition inside the abdomen.
2. Scans – CT (computerized tomography) and Ultrasound scans are used for better analysis.
3. Urine test – This is used to eliminate Urinary Tract Infection or kidney stones as the cause of abdominal pain.
4. Blood test – This is done to check for high count of white blood cells (WBC). If there is a high count of WBC then it indicates that the body is fighting an infection. This infection may be located at the Appendix and the Peritoneum.
Apart from these tests, the doctor may employ the Rovsing’s sign and the pressure test at McBurney’s point to confirm appendicitis. The doctor will also look for abdominal muscle spasms as a reaction when the abdomen is touched or when pressure is applied.
If an invasive procedure is required to confirm appendicitis, then the doctor may call for a rectal examination. If the right side of the rectum feels tender then it may indicate appendicitis.
The above mentioned appendicitis symptoms are common to several other complaints of the stomach and abdomen. There is a possibility of confusing these symptoms with that of gastroenteritis. To help the doctor diagnose appendicitis correctly, you must clearly tell him all the symptoms you have noticed. Children may seem confused, so they may need a little coaxing. But you should not confuse them with your own suggestions. Appendicitis is a serious condition which can be fatal if not detected early. So take care.