What causes appendicitis?
Appendicitis occurs when the interior of the appendix becomes filled with something that causes it to swell, such as mucus, stool or parasites.
Then, a series of events happens.
- The appendix becomes irritated and inflamed.
- The blood supply to the appendix is cut off as the swelling and irritation increase.
- When the blood flow is reduced, the appendix starts to die.
- Rupture (or perforation) occurs as holes develop in the walls of the appendix, allowing stool, mucus, and other substances to leak through and get inside the abdomen.
- An infection inside the abdomen known as peritonitis occurs when the appendix perforates.
How often does appendicitis occur?
Most cases of appendicitis occur when a child/young adult is between the ages of 6 and 20.
- It is uncommon in children under four years, but the rate of perforation is high in this group since young children are unable to tell exactly how they feel and "where it hurts."
- Appendicitis occurs in equal numbers in boys and girls.
- About four appendectomies (surgical removal of the appendix) are done in every 1000 children under age 14.
Why is appendicitis a concern?
An irritated appendix can rapidly turn into an infected and ruptured appendix, sometimes within hours. A ruptured appendix can be life threatening. When the appendix ruptures, bacteria infect the organs inside the abdominal cavity, causing peritonitis. The bacterial infection can spread quickly and be difficult to treat.
What are the symptoms of appendicitis?
Each child may experience symptoms differently, but here's a list of the most common symptoms:
pain in the abdomen which:
- may start in the area around the belly button, and move over to the lower right-hand side of the abdomen, but may also start in the lower right-hand side of the abdomen.
- usually increases in severity as time passes.
- may be worse with moving, taking deep breaths, being touched and coughing or sneezing.
- may spread throughout the abdomen if the appendix ruptures.
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- fever and chills
- changes in behavior
- diarrhea or constipation
Symptoms of appendicitis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult your physician for a diagnosis.