Although many of us are aware of the appendix, very few can say with confidence that they know what it does. That’s because the appendix is commonly thought to be a vestigial organ, meaning it doesn’t actually do much. However, new research suggests that the appendix does contribute to your immune system.
In the United States, appendicitis is the leading cause of abdominal pain resulting in surgery. It afflicts more than 5 percent of the population, especially in people ages 10 to 30. It occurs when the lining of the appendix, the little tube-shaped organ found at the end of your large intestine on the right side of the navel, experiences a blockage—which results in an infectious influx of bacteria. This, in turn, causes the appendix to become inflamed and filled with pus.
When the appendix becomes inflamed, many people experience the chills and a low-grade fever of around 99 to 100 degrees. This is the body simply detecting an infection and attempting to attack it. However, a significant increase in temperature along with a change in heart rate indicates that the appendix has ruptured, which requires immediate professional attention.
Belly button pain
While we are commonly warned that we should pay attention to a sharp pain in the lower right abdomen to detect appendicitis, the first sign is a duller pain in the upper abdomen (around the belly button) that becomes sharper as it moves downwards. You will especially experience pain if you apply and then release pressure on the area, or if you move in such a way that jostles your stomach area.
Inability to pass gas
As the appendix swells, it can block the functions of the large intestine. Consistent trouble passing gas indicates obstruction of the bowels, which is a common sign of appendicitis. This may also result in a swelling or bloating of the abdomen due to the pressure of the trapped gas.
Nausea and vomiting
Appendicitis is often confused with the stomach bug due to the close resemblance of some of its symptoms, including prolonged vomiting and nausea. Nausea and vomiting caused by appendicitis occur in tangent with the abdominal pain, sometimes preceding it. However, the most accurate way that one can rule out the stomach bug is if the vomiting and nausea continue or become worse after 12 hours.
Diarrhea and constipation
Many have reported having digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation while experiencing appendicitis. This will most likely occur after you begin experiencing the abdominal pain; it may contribute to more stomach pain or bloatedness due to the extra or loose stool. Be wary if you have been experiencing diarrhea or constipation in addition to vomiting for over 12 hours.
If appendicitis persists, the appendix can rupture in the body, and its contents may leak into the abdomen. Though some of the symptoms may seem obvious, others are not – depending on the position of the appendix in the body, its tilt, one’s pain tolerance and the stage of the appendicitis. But, because the appendix has potential to rupture within 48 hours of the symptoms, it is vital to pay close attention to these signs and to consult a doctor immediately if you notice any of them.