The process of diagnosing appendicitis is very challenging to doctors. The symptoms of appendicitis have an unspecific character and don’t always indicate to appendicitis. In some forms of the illness, the general symptoms of appendicitis are even impossible to detect in time.
Appendicitis is usually diagnosed upon patients’ reports of symptoms. The most common symptoms of appendicitis are: pronounced, recidivating pain in the lower abdomen (it usually occurs in the umbilical region and later localizes in the right lower area of the abdomen), loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, abdominal bloating and moderate fever. These symptoms of appendicitis are more intense in the acute forms of the illness. It is important to note that people with chronic appendicitis may only have one or two of these symptoms, and usually at a lower intensity (high fever is uncharacteristic to people with chronic appendicitis). Some people may not have any symptoms of appendicitis at all!
Appendicitis can affect anyone, at any age. Generally, appendicitis seems to have a higher incidence in males. Acute forms of appendicitis mostly occur in children and teenagers (with ages between 3 and15), but also in older patients (ages above 50). Due to the fact that small children are incapable of expressing their pain and distress, the acute forms of appendicitis are usually detected later in very young patients. This allows the illness to aggravate and many children develop complications before they receive the appropriate medical treatment. In most cases, the presence of appendicitis in elderly patients is also revealed late. The symptoms of appendicitis are perceived differently by older patients and by the time the illness is diagnosed, they may have already developed gangrene or sepsis.
The symptoms of appendicitis in people with special conditions are probably the most difficult to detect. While symptoms like fever, abdominal pain and bloating are common in most patients with acute appendicitis, some people with the illness only feel a general state of fatigue and discomfort. The symptoms of appendicitis are almost impossible to timely detect in people with HIV, people who have previously suffered surgical interventions, people with diabetes, people that receive treatment with immuno-supressives and obese people. In many cases, these special categories of people are sent to the operation room right after they are diagnosed with acute appendicitis.
The symptoms of appendicitis are simply not reliable in diagnosing the illness. However, there are other means of diagnosing appendicitis: blood analysis, endoscopy and computerized tomography.
Although the mortality rate of people with appendicitis has considerably decreased in the last decades, the illness is still considered to be a medical emergency. Considering the gravity of the illness, you should see a doctor even you have the slightest symptom of appendicitis. If the symptoms of appendicitis are intense, you may have already developed complications and prompt medical intervention is required. Pay attention to the symptoms of appendicitis and remember that this illness can be life-threatening!