What is the appendix?
The appendix, found at the lower right side of the abdomen, is a small pouch that branches off the cecum, the first part of the colon that receives the partially digested food from the small intestine.
For the longest time, medical experts viewed the appendix as a “vestigial organ” or an organ that has no function or purpose.
Recently, however, a study by researchers from Midwestern University in Arizona suggested that the appendix may be a secondary immune organ by storing good bacteria and producing immunoglobulins – proteins that fight infection.
What is appendicitis and what causes it?
While it’s safe to say that we can live without the 2 to 4-inch pouch that is the appendix, it’ll be a big problem if it gets infected. Appendicitis happens when there is a blockage in the appendix. Bacteria, viruses, or parasites often cause the blockage. Sometimes, trapped stool and tumors can also cause it.
Because of the blockage, the appendix may become inflamed or swollen and the blood supply in the area will decrease. Without blood supply, the appendix can burst. When the appendix explodes, the infection will spread into the abdomen. This is the reason why appendicitis is a medical emergency.
How to know if it’s appendicitis or gas pain?
Since people often feel pain somewhere in their abdomen, it’s quite difficult to ascertain if the pain is coming from appendicitis or gas. Appendicitis pain has the following characteristics:
- Sudden, sharp pain that begins at the right side of the abdomen.
- Sudden, sharp pain that starts at the navel then shifts to the lower right side of the abdomen.
- Pain that worsens when you cough or sneeze or when you perform jarring movements like walking or jogging.
Please note that the painful area may vary, depending on your age and condition. For instance, pregnant women may feel appendicitis pain in their upper abdomen because their appendix is positioned higher in their belly.