No other human organ is more aptly described by the words above other than the human appendix, a finger-shaped pouch that projects from your colon on the lower right side of your abdomen. Okay, so your appendix literally has been definitely found to perform a single function, and that is doing nothing. However, the appendix is largely made of mucosa associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) which may have a role to play in immunity, especially that of the gut. One thing remains certain and it is that there are absolutely no apparent consequences that have been linked to absence of an appendix in any human yet. Yet the appendix has been found to cause problems for approximately 1 in 20 persons in the US. There is no available statistic regarding occurrence in Nigeria but it has been noticed that appendicitis is slightly more prevalent in the Caucasian population due to differences in diet. Anyway, Appendicitis is simply a vestigial organ getting nasty on us.
Appendicitis is defined as inflammation of the appendix due to an unknown cause in most cases. Experts however believe that it is caused by blockage in the appendix which can be caused by intestinal worms, faecal matter, tumors and enlarged lymphoid follicles. Appendicitis is also classically uncommon in ages less than 10 and more than 40 with a peak incidence in persons of ages 21-30. Studies have linked this to the high activity of the appendiceal MALT. It has also been found to slightly occur more in males although this might not always be the case. Appendicitis commonly presents as:
- Dull pain near the navel or the upper abdomen that becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen. This is usually the first sign.
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting soon after abdominal pain begins
- Abdominal swelling
- Low grade fever
- Inability to pass gas
If appendicitis is suspected at home, it is advised that drugs such as laxatives, antacids and even pain remedies be avoided as this might cause a rupture, leading to the feared complications of an abscess or peritonitis which are life threatening. The risks of these complications coupled with the severe pain have made appendicitis a medical emergency, and a common one at that.
Doctors prefer to err on the side of caution in dealing with appendicitis hence a surgical removal of the appendix known as an appendectomy is usually conducted on a person with a confirmed case of appendicitis. Of course, this allows for no recurrence.
Early diagnosis and prompt surgical intervention is intrinsically important to successful management therefore medical help should be sought immediately signs and symptoms are noticed.