What Causes Appendicitis?

Let’s start with what, where and whatyour appendix does. In the picture to the right, you can see where the large and small intestines join, and the little dangling thing named the appendix. It is part of the digestive system, the intestines particularly--it is a closed system that tends to collect some stool and bacteria. When this small intestinal part becomes inflamed, it may need to be removed. Can you live a completely normal life without it?Yes, you can live a full and healthy life without it, and in fact, millions of people do.

What Causes Appendicitis?

There are multiple theories of the actual cause for inflammation of the appendix, theories that have increased as more knowledge about the digestive tract is learned. They range from trauma to that area of the abdomen, to stool being stuck in the appendix and bacteria multiplying which may cause inflammation.

A common concept is that any viral or bacterial infection in the body can end up causing inflammation of the finger like projection. Once there, the bacteria grows and cannot escape, causing the process to become dangerous.

Parasites and abnormal growths can cause an obstruction in the area and lead to the same end, infection. The same theory includes syndromes such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or any inflammatory bowel disease. This can create ulcers, abscesses and obstructions, and most of these problems can be thwarted with the proper high fiber diet.

Risk Factors of Appendicitis

Risk factors are indicators that have been determined over time to be related to the increased incidence of a specific disease, in this case appendicitis. These factors don’t actually cause the problem, they are indirectly linked to a higher occurrence if you fall within these parameters.

Risk Factors



Low fiber and high carbohydrates diets can contribute to the increased incidence of appendicitis.


Males tend to get it more often than girls, and men with cystic fibrosis are more apt to get appendicitis in childhood.


A family history of appendicitis may increase the risk, some appendices are not in the same place or position as the average person and this is considered a contributing factor.


Appendicitis occurs most often between 11 and 20 years old, however, you can develop it at any age.


Mumps, gastroenteritis, amoebas and bacteria are common causes of infection.

Previous appendix injury

Trauma to the area of the abdomen in the recent past is labeled as a probable factor in developing appendicitis, especially in the winter months.

Watch the video for more information about appendicitis, such as the definition as well as the causes for it: 

Symptoms and Complications of Appendicitis

Symptoms of appendicitis can vary person-to-person, age and medical conditions affect the picture. Most people associate pain in the right lower abdomen with the inflammation; however, many times young children or pregnant women have pain other places.

  • Abdominal pain usually starts around the belly button and then goes towards the lower right side. The aching increases over time, the area becomes tender to touch. One diagnostic test is sharp pains occur when pressure is applied and suddenly released. The pain is worse with walking, jogging, coughing or any jarring movements occur.
  • Loss of appetite is common and is often accompanied with nausea and vomiting, and a low-grade fever.
  • Diarrhea, constipation is not unusual and frequently you’ll find you cannot pass gas. This may or may not cause your abdomen to swell and you will feel bloated.

Note: If you have abdominal pain that is significant, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Complications of Appendicitis

Complications can be quite serious, even fatal if ignored. It doesn’t get better on its own. Medical evaluation and treatment are necessary. When appendicitis ensues, your appendix becomes more and more inflamed and swollen due to the bacteria growing inside. Without an outlet, either it will leak or burst open, causing the infectious material and pus to enter your abdominal cavity cause peritonitis.

It may cause an abscess to form and if this leaks it can lead to wide spread infection throughout your body. Abscesses need to be treated as soon as possible, and are very painful.

Below, you will find a video which provides a more in-depth description about what happens when the appendix gets sick:

How to Deal With Appendicitis

Observation in hospital is one method of treating appendicitis. If your doctor determines it is not an emergent situation, watching and waiting allows time for the pain to go away or get worse. Remaining at the hospital allows for emergency treatment if symptoms call for it.

1. Medications

Medications are sometimes the preferred initial treatment if the physician feels that will get the job done. You may be sent home with pain medication, mild or even over the counter, not strong enough to mask the real pain of appendicitis. You may also be given a round of suitable antibiotics for a bacterial infection, such as an abscess.

2. Appendectomy to Treat Appendicitis

Surgery is usually recommended if your appendix is diagnosed to be very inflamed, this may be decided based on symptoms, ultra sound and blood work. The plan is to prevent the possible rupture and the complications that accompany a burst appendix. There are two types of surgery available - the chosen one depends on your current condition.

If appropriate, laparoscopic has many advantages post operatively. This procedure requires small holes to be opened to insert a lighted camera allowing the surgeon to remove the affected parts. The recovery is quick, but not painless. This technique has far less scar tissue form with healing, that may seem insignificant to some, but scar tissue can be a serious source of problems in the intestines.

Another method is traditional, the way they were all done in the past--a larger cut facilitates full inspection of the abdominal cavity. This open process is used if the appendix burst, or if you had previous surgeries and they want to check for an abundance of scar tissue. The other cases when this method is recommended are known tumors in the digestive system or the first trimester in pregnancy.

3. Ways to Prevent Further Inflammation

  • Maintain a diet rich in fiber

Depending on your physician and your condition, sometimes treatment is limited to a high fiber diet and medications to reduce the inflammation and prevent full-blown appendicitis from evolving. Adults should maintain about 30gms of fiber in their daily diet. Vegetables, fruits and nuts are a good source, as long as your physician approves.

If you had surgery, post-operative care is specific to your case. Diet is often restricted to easily digested foods to promote healing and reduce gastrointestinal stress. How long you maintain this diet depends on your body’s response, it may last up to 2 weeks.

  • Take more rest

Get all you can, rest is always a major component in healing. That doesn’t mean you should spend all day in bed, mild exercise is needed to maintain normal intestinal function. Find a happy medium.

  • Limit your activity

Allow your body time to heal itself, if you had a traditional procedure done, it will take longer for your incision to mend, inside and out. Walking helps your intestinal movement return to normal, get rid of gas and allows you to have a wonderful bowel movement.

  • Support your abdomen

After the surgery, it is normal that you would feel pain in your abdomen when you make movements such as cough or laugh. To help you feel better, try to put something over your abdomen and apply pressure before you do these things.

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