The function of the appendix remains unclear, but there is no doubt the mysterious tissue sac causes serious problems when it becomes blocked. Appendicitis has significant symptoms and complications. The condition occurs when a blockage in the tube-like appendix allows bacteria to build up and cause infection. The reason behind this buildup is not clear, but scientists believe mucus or stool may be responsible for blockages, or swollen lymphatic tissue.
The most common symptom of appendicitis is mild to severe pain that can be hard to pin down initially, but is ultimately radiating from the left side of the abdomen. The pain increases over time. Other symptoms develop as the condition becomes more serious. Patients may experience fever, nausea, loss of appetite, an inability to pass gas, swelling of the abdomen, and vomiting. If appendicitis is not treated promptly, abscesses and peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum) can develop, and the appendix may rupture. At this point, prompt treatment and surgery are necessary to avoid serious and even fatal complications. Appendicitis can be hard to diagnose even when symptoms are present because there are many other gastrointestinal conditions that mimic the same symptoms, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), gallbladder disease, kidney disease, ectopic pregnancy, and diverticulitis.
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