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Appendicitis in Adolescents
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis is inflammation of your appendix. The appendix is a small pouch. It is attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. The appendix may get blocked by food or by part of a bowel movement that becomes hard. It can also become infected with bacteria or a virus. Appendicitis can also be caused by a parasite or tumor. You will need immediate care to prevent a ruptured appendix. A ruptured appendix can cause bacteria to flow into your abdomen. This can lead to a serious infection called peritonitis.
What are the signs and symptoms of appendicitis?
It is important to tell your parents or another adult if you develop certain symptoms. Symptoms may start suddenly and get worse quickly. The most common symptom is pain that starts at the belly button and moves to the right, lower side of the abdomen. The pain worsens when you touch your abdomen, move, sneeze, cough, or take a deep breath. You may also have any of the following:
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Abdomen that feels hard or tender
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
How is appendicitis diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine you and check for pain or tenderness in your abdomen. Tell your provider about all your symptoms. You may also need any of the following:
- Blood tests may be used to check for signs of infection or inflammation.
- A urine test may be used to check for a urinary tract infection or kidney stone.
- CT or ultrasound pictures of your abdomen may be used to check the appendix. You may be given contrast liquid to help the appendix show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Ask your parents if you are not sure.
How is appendicitis treated?
- Medicines may be given to fight an infection or to manage pain. These medicines will be given in the hospital through an IV.
- Drainage may be needed if you develop an abscess after a burst appendix. Infected fluid drains through a tube.
- An appendectomy is surgery to remove your appendix. Your appendix may be removed through small incisions in your abdomen. If your appendix has burst, you may need an open appendectomy. A single, larger incision is made to remove the appendix and clean out the abdomen.
When should I call my doctor?
- You have a fever.
- You have severe abdominal pain.
- You are vomiting and cannot keep food down.
- You have abdominal pain that does not go away, even after taking pain medicine.
- You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
- You have trouble having a bowel movement, or you have diarrhea.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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