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The Human Appendix: Is it Useful or Useless?

The Human Appendix: Is it Useful or Useless?

The appendix is a thin tube that is located at the intersection point of your small and large intestine. The tube is about four inches long and is located near the lower right abdomen. Even though the appendix is an important part of your immune system, it rarely gets any attention. How does the appendix function? Does it serve a purpose?

Most of the time, the only time it gets some attention is when it becomes inflamed or is ruptured.

It has always been said that appendix serves little to no purpose. And just because a person can live without the organ does it mean it has no real function? Read to know.

An appendix comprises lymphoid tissue in a large amount. It is a tube-like structure connected to the cecum. The scientific name of the appendix is ‘vermiform appendix’. The average length of appendix is between 5 cm and 35 cm.

There is not enough research about the use of appendix. Not many animals have an appendix function, while those with an appendix have one that is different from a human appendix.

Appendix Function: Useful or useless?

appendix function

Research also suggests the appendix is home to good bacteria in the body. These good bacteria have an important role, they generate vitamins and hormones required by your body.

Why is this appendix function important? Because good bacteria help maintain good bowel movements and aid the immune system. It is believed when the stomach gets affected by any infection or any sickness that cleans out the intestines, these good bacteria reproduce and keep your digestive system healthy.

It is believed in today’s world when we have access to good sanitization, there’s not much need for good bacteria. Hence, the organ is termed ‘useless’.

The organ is also identified as a significant component of human immune function. The structure of the appendix helps in the removal of waste from the digestive system.

According to Charles Darwin, human ancestors mainly relied on the appendix to digest leaves, and with evolution, the organ took on a new purpose. Later human ancestors relied on an appendix to digest the food as they consumed a diet rich in foliage.

With time, as people began eating food that was easily digested, the cecum was less used for digestion. Over the course of time, the cecum shrank, and millions of years later, the cecum degraded to the modern-day appendix.

It is also claimed that the appendix has evolved over 30 times.

Appendix Function Disorders: Health Conditions to Watch Out For

Cancer of the appendix

Also called appendiceal cancer, cancer of the appendix occurs when there is an abnormal growth in the healthy cells. These cells, when they grow, become infectious. Just as appendix function and purposes aren’t apparent, so too do appendix tumors not have obvious symptoms in the initial stage.

The cancer is usually diagnosed during tests or surgeries. Some of the symptoms your doctor may look out for during the test are: bloated abdomen, ovarian masses, hernia, or obstruction of the bowel.

Potential risk factors of developing appendix cancer include vitamin B12 deficiency, atrophic gastritis, smoking, or if you have any family history of tumors. The treatment recommended depends on the type and stage of cancer and the person’s physical health. Treatment may also include chemotherapy before or after the surgery.

Appendicitis

Appendicitis is a medical condition that occurs when your appendix becomes inflamed and filled with pus.

When the opening of the appendix is blocked with bacteria or stool, it causes infection. The infection further causes swelling or inflammation. The swelling and inflammation result in the formation of pus. The pus can cause pain in the naval and lower right abdomen area.

In some cases, a person with appendicitis may also experience vomiting or nausea. Common symptoms of appendicitis include: abdominal pain and swelling, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, fever, constipation, diarrhea, etc.

If you are experiencing any such symptoms, your doctor may advise you to conduct a few tests to diagnose the condition.

It is advised to seek immediate medical help. If left untreated, appendicitis can burst and cause the pus to spread in the entire body. This can be fatal.

In such cases, doctors recommend undergoing an appendectomy.

A surgery that removes appendix. The surgery does not involve many complications. The recovery period of appendectomy is less.

Appendectomy is not always suggested, your doctor may even prescribe you antibiotics to treat and prevent appendicitis.

Diagnosis of Appendicitis

To diagnose appendicitis, your doctor may recommend a few tests. This may include a medical examination, CT scan, ultrasound, complete blood count (CBC) test, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and CT scans.

In most cases, an appendectomy does not possess any serious risk. In complicated cases, the surgery can lead to bleeding, infection, and inflammation of other organs. Before an appendectomy, inform your doctor if you are pregnant, have a bleeding disorder, have any medical condition, or are allergic to any medications.

Before the removal of the appendix, your doctor may keep you under observation for a few hours. He/she will closely monitor your blood pressure and heart rate. Your health care professional will perform an overall physical test and suggest the type of appendectomy you need to undergo.

After undergoing an appendectomy, you may feel pain and discomfort in the operated area. You may be kept under observation for a few hours. Your doctor may prescribe you medications to relieve pain and prevent infection.

Consult your doctor if you have symptoms of infection that include fever, cold, diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite, or pain/discomfort in the operated area.

Learn more about digestive health issues here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Appendicitis

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8095-appendicitis Accessed September 17, 2021

Appendix Isn’t Useless at All: It’s a Safe House for Bacteria

https://corporate.dukehealth.org/news/appendix-isnt-useless-all-its-safe-house-bacteria Accessed September 17, 2021

Appendicitis

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/appendicitis/symptoms/ Accessed September 17, 2021

Appendicitis

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/appendicitis/symptoms-causes/ Accessed September 17, 2021

What if humans didn’t have an appendix

https://www.livescience.com/what-if-no-appendix.html Accessed September 17, 2021

 

 

 

 

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Sep 17
Fact Checked by Bianchi Mendoza, R.N.