The appendix is a small, finger-like organ that is about ten centimetres long. It is attached to the large intestine. The appendix fills with food and empties into the colon. It does not empty effectively at all time and is prone to becoming blocked. The blockage leads to inflammation, also called an appendicitis.
An appendicitis is the most common cause of inflammation in the right lower section of the abdomen. Approximately 7 per cent of the population will have an appendicitis at some time in their life. Males are more likely than females to be affected. Teenagers are also more likely than adults to have symptoms of an appendicitis. Most frequently, an inflammation of the appendix will occur in individuals between the ages of 10 and 30.
Early pain symptoms include intermittent pain around the belly button. The pain will become more constant and will migrate to the right lower quadrant. The area of pain in this section of the abdomen is referred to as McBurney's Point. McBurney's Point is located about half way between the belly button and the hip bone.
After the pain begins, a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and a low grade fever are all additional symptoms of an inflamed appendix. Movement will make the pain in the lower right quadrant feel worse.
Symptoms of an inflamed appendix do not always follow the same pattern. Because the position of the appendix in the body can vary between individuals, the pain and symptoms can be felt at different areas in the abdomen. Also, with an atypical course, there may be a lack of fever, vomiting and nausea. A strong urge to urinate or defecate may be present with an atypical course.
Appendicitis is rare in infants. Children will exhibit the same symptoms as an adult, but may vary depending on the child's age. Younger children, less than two years of age, have vomiting and a swollen belly along with pain as their most common symptoms.
In elderly individuals, the signs and symptoms of an inflamed appendix can vary greatly. The symptoms may be vague and suggest a bowel problem. The elderly may also not experience any symptoms until the appendix ruptures, which will cause intense pain. Since the signs are harder to distinguish, many elderly individuals also tend to wait longer before receiving care when suffering from an inflamed appendix.