Appendicitis - Description

Appendicitis is the most common abdominal emergency among children and young adults. One person in fifteen develops appendicitis in his or her lifetime. The frequency of appendicitis is highest among males between the ages of ten and fourteen and among females between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. The disease is rare among the elderly and in children under the age of two.

The main symptom of appendicitis is increasingly severe pain in the abdomen. Many different conditions can cause abdominal pain, so an accurate diagnosis of appendicitis can be difficult. A prompt diagnosis is important, however. A delay can result in perforation (rupture) of the appendix. When this happens, the infected contents of the appendix spill into the abdomen. A serious infection known as peritonitis (pronounced per-i-tuh-NIE-tiss) may result.

Other conditions produce symptoms similar to those of appendicitis, especially among women. An example is endometriosis (pronounced en-do-mee-tree-O-suhs), an infection of the lining of the uterus, or pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection of the pelvis. Some forms of stomach upset and bowel inflammation may also imitate appendicitis.

The treatment for acute (sudden, severe) appendicitis is an appendectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the appendix. Since a ruptured appendix can be life-threatening, people suspected of having appendicitis may be taken to surgery before the diagnosis is certain.

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