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, the appendix is about seven centimetres long. Scientists are not completely clear as to its function, however most believe 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 and 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.
Your doctor will be able to diagnose 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 with symptoms that resemble appendicitis such as Crohn’s disease, colitis and other gastro-intestinal problems.
In rare 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 even can get out of bed the next day.
Until next month, drive safely. •
-Dr. Christopher Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont.
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