Health

What is your appendix and why is it important?

The appendix – the body part of mystery.

The appendix is a thin tube, which is attached to the start of the large intestine, at the point where the small and large intestines meet. One end of the appendix is connected to the large intestine and the other end is closed. The exact function of the appendix is unknown.

Fluid from blood vessels passes through the lining into the middle of the appendix. According to the experts at House Call Doctor, the appendix contains cells that help to fight infection, and muscles that push fluid out into the large intestine and bowel.

Some scientists believe that the appendix provides a useful function in the body, even though it does not help with digestion. Research suggests the appendix stores good bacteria that the body needs. Scientists think that if the good bacteria in the bowel were to be damaged, then the appendix might release its bacteria into the bowel.

Many people have had their appendix removed, and this causes no difference to their health, except for necessary recovery the surgery itself.

Scientists have also found the more omnivorous animals are, the smaller and less important the appendix is – humans are a prime example of this.

Appendicitis

Appendicitis is the most common illness associated with the appendix. Scientists are unsure as to what causes appendicitis, but it could be linked to food or faeces getting lodged in the appendix. An appendix will become blocked, inflamed and then infected. Left untreated, the appendix can burst – which can be fatal.

Appendicitis is most common in children and young adults but can occur at any age.

Symptoms can include lower right abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Surgical removal is the most common treatment for appendicitis.

Signs of appendicitis

If you’re showing any of the below signs, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible as you may be suffering from appendicitis:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting, though not frequently (only once or twice)
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • An abdomen which feels tender when it’s touched (particularly low and on the right).

The most common sign of appendicitis is pain, which will start near the naval (otherwise known as the belly button). This pain might come and go for some time, so it’s important to keep track of any signs you’re experiencing.

If a young child has appendicitis, they can often find it difficult to show where the pain they’re feeling is located. Instead, they’ll likely just say they’re in pain or feeling sick.

If this is the case, consult with a doctor as they can help determine the location of the pain your child is experiencing, along with the cause of the symptoms.