Eight percent of all people will experience appendicitis at some point, but not everyone knows exactly what it means and whether it is dangerous. IBD surgeon Christianne Buskens and surgeon Charles van Rossem explain.

What are the effects of appendicitis?

Appendix symptoms 1The appendix is ​​an appendage of the large intestine and has a so-called “blind” end. When there is a blockage on the inside, it can lead to inflammation. This causes your appendix to swell and multiple bacterial infections develop. This leads to stomach cramps, problems going to the toilet, and nausea. If the infection persists, your appendix may eventually burst. This phenomenon is called intestinal perforation.

Your peritoneum also becomes inflamed and can even lead to blood poisoning. Today, however, appendicitis is no longer as dangerous as it sounds if you get treated in time. Virtually no one will die from it, but it can make you very sick. In some cases, the inflammation spreads to your ovaries, large intestine, and small intestine. Pregnant women are therefore more likely to have a premature birth or miscarriage.
Anyone can get appendicitis at any age, although it is more common in young adults. However, there is no difference between men and women in this regard. Everyone has an equal chance.

The relationship between the appendix and IBD

IBD stands for “Inflammatory Bowel Disease”. This is an umbrella term for multiple conditions, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The appendix has always been seen as an unused piece of the intestine that no longer has any function. Nevertheless, research by Buskens has shown that there is indeed a connection between ulcerative colitis and appendicitis.
If you have had appendicitis at an early age, the risk of ulcerative colitis is smaller. People with ulcers often even have some form of appendicitis as part of their IBD. This is often only visible at a microscopic level. A possible cause of this is that the appendix repopulates the large intestine with all kinds of bacteria to which your ulcerative colitis reacts strongly with a new inflammation.
It is currently unclear what effects appendicitis has on the development of Crohn’s disease.

How do you recognize appendicitis? Appendix symptoms in female

You usually notice it pretty quickly when you have appendicitis. This is no fun, but it does help you get treated quickly. It often starts with acute pain in the lower right abdomen. You often have less appetite and fever symptoms. When you call your doctor, he or she can refer you for a blood test. If this shows that the inflammation values ​​are very high, an ultrasound of your abdomen is made to confirm whether it is indeed your appendix.
If you have ulcerative colitis, it is more difficult to recognize appendicitis. This is partly because it does not penetrate your intestinal wall and your peritoneum does not become inflamed. Many people, therefore, complain of a chronic, nagging cramp.
Your appendix does not always have to be removed in case of inflammation unless there is intestinal perforation. However, without an appendix, you can easily live your life. It is not an essential part of your body.

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