I recently had a patient come into my clinic complaining of right-side abdominal pain, which radiated to his back. After carefully examining the patient, I suspected he was suffering from acute appendicitis.
As a result, I recommended that the patient go to the hospital for further testing. It turned out the patient did have appendicitis and consequently had his appendix removed.
Appendicitis is a serious condition that can become fatal very quickly if not treated. As a result, it is important for professional truck drivers to be able to recognize its symptoms and seek proper medical help as soon as possible.
Essentially, appendicitis is sudden inflammation or swelling of the appendix. Your appendix is a finger-like structure that projects out from your colon on the lower right side of your abdomen.
In most people, their appendix is about seven centimeters long. Scientists are not completely clear as to its function, however it is believed that it plays a role in the body’s immune system.
Appendicitis is fairly common, as one in 15 people develop it in their lifetime. Anyone can develop it, but it is most common between the ages of 10 to 30.
The most common cause of appendicitis is a blockage, due to food waste or stool. When this occurs, bacteria can subsequently invade the area, causing swelling and the production of pus.
If this situation is not treated quickly, the appendix may rupture and spill its contents into the abdominal cavity. This may lead to an infection of the lining of the abdominal cavity, which can be a dangerous situation.
A person suffering from appendicitis may experience a variety of symptoms that can change rapidly. The most common symptom is a dull, aching pain around the belly button, which soon moves to the lower right abdomen.
This location is about halfway between your belly button and the top of your right pelvic bone. Some people may experience pain in slightly different locations due to the position of their appendix.
Other common symptoms include constipation, diarrhea or gas, loss of appetite, low fever, and nausea. In the event that the appendix ruptures, you may experience symptoms such as abdominal swelling and rigidity, as well as pain on the right side of the abdomen when pressed on the left side. These are both signs that inflammation has spread to the abdominal cavity and must be treated immediately.
If you are ever on the road and think that you have appendicitis, get to a doctor as soon as possible. Do not wait until you have delivered your load or until you get home, as it may be too late. Time is of the essence when it comes to appendicitis.
Your doctor will be able to diagnosis appendicitis by taking a thorough health history and by performing a series of clinical tests.
A blood and urine sample may also be taken to rule out other conditions that present similarly to appendicitis, such as Crohn’s disease, colitis and other gastrointestinal problems.
In rarer cases, your doctor may ask for an ultrasound or CT scan to better visualize the appendix itself.
Once appendicitis has been identified by your doctor, the usual course of action is to surgically remove the appendix, a procedure called an appendectomy. Your surgeon may perform traditional open surgery, using a single incision, or laparoscopic surgery, which requires only a few small abdominal incisions.
Sometimes, antibiotics will be given before surgery and may be continued after the operation in case some bacteria entered the abdomen during the procedure. The good news is that most people recover from this surgery very quickly. Some can even get out of bed the next day. However, if left untreated and the appendix does rupture, the surgery and recovery will be more extensive.
Keep that in mind the next time you have abdominal pain.
Until next month, drive safely.
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