Appendicitis is a very common type of internal disorder. The disease involves inflammation and infection of the vermiform appendix, a tube-shaped extension of the cecum. Although the exact role of the vermiform appendix inside the body hasn’t been clarified yet, it seems that this small organ may facilitate the process of digestion. However, the appendix is not a vital organ and the human body continues to function normally in its absence. The medical treatment of appendicitis commonly involves removal of the diseased appendix from the body. If appendicitis is not discovered in time, the disease can lead to serious complications such as perforation of the appendix and sepsis (spreading of the bacterial infection inside the body). These complications are responsible for causing thousands of annual deaths among appendicitis sufferers.
Appendicitis is one of the most common causes of abdominal discomfort and pain in children. Around 10 percent of children that experience these symptoms are eventually diagnosed with appendicitis. Appendicitis is very common among adults as well and the disease has the highest incidence in the male gender.
Diagnosing appendicitis can be very problematic for medical professionals. Appendicitis usually generates non-characteristic symptoms, thus slowing down the process of diagnosis. In many cases, appendicitis may progress latently, causing no outwardly visible symptoms. Asymptomatic appendicitis sufferers may perceive the symptoms of the disorder long after they develop complications, thus having reduced chances of recovery.
When appendicitis is accompanied by perceivable symptoms, the clinical manifestations of the disease are abdominal pain (at first in the umbilical region, later spreading to the right lower side of the abdomen), nausea and vomiting. In children, appendicitis often generates poor appetite, diarrhea or constipation, moderate to high fever and excessive sweating. Apart from patients’ reports of symptoms and careful physical examinations, doctors need to perform conclusive tests that can confirm the presence of appendicitis. Common medical techniques used in the process of diagnosing appendicitis are ultrasound tests, computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. However, in special cases, even these modern medical procedures can fail in revealing evidence of physiological abnormalities associated with appendicitis.
Under special circumstances, doctors may also perform additional blood analyses in order to detect clear signs of bacterial infection. White blood cell count can sometimes confirm presumptive diagnoses of appendicitis, as high levels of white cells may suggest a severe infection of the vermiform appendix. By analyzing the blood levels of C-reactive protein in patients with suspected appendicitis, doctors are also able to reveal complicated forms of the disease (perforation of the appendix, abcess, sepsis).
To correctly diagnose appendicitis in its incipient stages is a very difficult task. Hence, many patients may have already developed serious complications by the time they are diagnosed with appendicitis. Despite medical progress and the abundance of accumulated data regarding appendicitis, the disease is still revealed late or misdiagnosed in present.