It did kill the fabulous magician Harry Houdini.
And the great fantasy author Lord Dunsany.
And nearly killed Elton John.
It can strike anyone, of any age. It’s actually most common in young people between 10 and 30 years of age.
My sister had the problem when she was so little I’ve forgotten both our ages. Houdini was only 52, but Lord Dunsany was 79.
Other celebrities who have suffered from the condition, but fortunately got treated before they died, include:
- Ashley Judd
- Glenn Beck
- Suze Orman
- Lindsey Lohan
- Zac Efron
- Bret Michaels
Obviously, appendicitis can strike the old and the young (and the middle-aged).
About 320,000 Americans are hospitalized with it annually, and 300-400 die.
Yet, unlike Alzheimers or cancer, it’s not a condition that strikes us with fear. Partly that’s because it apparently hurts so badly that people go into the hospital for treatment before it gets deadly.
Yet, according to WebMD, one out of fifteen Americans will get appendicitis at some point in their lives.
One of my nephews, only 15, had to have his appendix removed just last week.
What is Appendicitis
The “itis” at the end tells the story. That means pain and inflammation.
Lots of medical conditions are simply a part of your body combined with “itis.”
Arthritis – joints painful and inflamed
Bronchitis – painful and inflamed bronchial tubes
Bursitis – painful and inflamed burse
Dermititis – painful and inflamed skin
Hepatitis – painful and inflamed liver
Laryngitis – painful and inflamed larynx
You get the idea.
Appendicitis is simply when your appendix becomes inflamed and painful.
If it gets so bad it bursts, it can be fatal.
What is Your Appendix
It’s a small tube, about four inches long, at the junction of your small and large intestines.
What Causes an Inflamed Appendix?
Basically, the appendix becomes blocked up, and then bacteria invade and the infection gets out of control.
1. Stool blockage and backup
Having constipation puts you at higher risk of appendicitis.
2. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
With this condition, your lower bowel is chronically inflamed. This leads to constipation and diarrhea — and appendicitis.
3. Cancer of the appendix
4. Foreign objects
This includes seeds and metal.
5. Viral infection
In this case, the appendix becomes perforated and leaks.
8. Parasites & Roundworms.
9. Bacterial infection
10. Abdominal trauma
Apparently Houdini suffered a hard punch in the gut just before his death by ruptured appendix.
What are the Symptoms of Appendicitis
1. Abdominable pain and all associated symptoms.
These include nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.
Lord Dunsany was visiting a friend, and after dinner complained of feeling sick.
My nephew complained of having a lot of stomach pain.
2. Belly button pain
It can move down to your lower abdomen, especially on the right side. If it’s so bad you can’t stand up, get checked for appendicitis.
3. The pain gets rapidly worse.
4. Severe fever and chills
5. Constipation and diarrhea, including gas and bloating – or you can’t release the gas
6. Rebound tenderness
If you push down on your abdomen on the lower right side, and it hurts as the flesh rises back into position, don’t do it again. Go to the doctor.
Obviously, most of these symptoms are common to every illness located in your abdomen, including what we normally call the stomach flu.
The location of the pain can be one good clue, however. I don’t recall ever having a case of the flu that gave me specific belly-button pain. Nor that hurt mainly in the lower right abdomen. All my bouts with stomach flu gave me general nausea. Eating too much gave me digestion pains centered in my stomach.
Three months ago I did have a kidney stone. That gave me severe pain on my left side, and it did rapidly increase from a minor irritation I thought was a muscle strained from walking a lot, to pain that had me writhing in agony.
I threw up, but didn’t really feel nauseated, which sounds like a contradiction, but the doctor told me I threw up as a result of the pain.
That pain was in the lower left of my abdomen. However, I was so upset I thought that meant it probably was appendicitis, which convinced me I better go to the hospital. Later, the doctor laughed at me as he told me the appendix was on my right side.
However, my point is that both conditions are serious, and need attention.
And it’s not easy for doctors to tell right away. My nephew went to a doctor the morning of the same day he was later admitted to the hospital at night. I wasn’t there, but obviously that doctor didn’t suspect he had appendicitis.
If you do exhibit these symptoms, do not eat or drink anything. Don’t take any pain remedies or laxatives. Don’t apply a heating pad, as that can cause the inflamed appendix to burst.
How Can You Prevent Appendicitis?
Here’s the most important question, right?
I’ve read a thousand books and articles about preventing cancer, heart disease, obesity and so on, but nobody ever tells you how to prevent appendicitis.
According to MedicineNet, people who eat a lot of vegetables and fruit and other high fiber foods suffer a lot less appendicitis. Wikipedia mentions low fiber as a cause of it.
And that makes sense. Eating a lot of vegetables and fruit gives you fiber, which helps prevent constipation.
The University of Maryland Medical Center backs up the eating vegetables advice.
Improve Your Immune System
Official medical sources otherwise say appendicitis can’t be prevented.
However, because its mainly an infection, that’s clearly a job for your immune system.
I can’t give you an extensive course on how to keep your immune system healthy. Most of my book Beat the Flu is devoted to that subject.
However, eating adequate protein and getting large amounts of Vitamin D are basic steps to remaining healthy.
Should You Have Your Appendix Removed Before You get Appendicitis
According to standard medical science, the appendix has no function. Darwin said that meant it was an evolutionary holdover. It served a useful purpose at some time in our past, but no longer.
That is what doctors were all taught in medical school, and therefore what they still believe.
However, according to some medical experts, including an article in Journal of Theoretical Biology, the appendicitis may serve a function after all. It acts as a sort of medical reserve for good intestinal bacteria.
Your intestines contains trillions of bacteria, many of them helping you to digest food and perform other useful functions for your immune system.
If you get a bad intestinal infection or cholera, that can wipe out those beneficial bacteria.
According to this one theory from the Duke University Medical Center, after the infection is over, your intestines can be repopulated with good bacteria that hid away in your appendix.
If you have no appendix, obviously that won’t happen.
Therefore, you should not have your appendix cut out just because a surgeon is opening you up anyway for some other reason, so they decide they may as well take out your “useless” appendix while they’ve got your abdomen opened up. It happens.
However, if you have appendicitis, you need to have it removed to save your life.
In some cases, getting enough antibiotics may kill the infection before you need to have your appendix removed, but that’s a decision for your doctor to make.
Clearly, if eating lots of vegetables and fruits were required to prevent appendicitis, many more Americans would get it.
And I clearly can’t promise that eating lots of fiber will protect you.
Therefore, it’s one of those things you should know about, without worrying about.
If you can’t prevent it, don’t sweat it.
However, if you experience severe abdominal pain, especially around your belly button, it grows in severity and spreads to your lower right abdomen, get it checked it out.
In the meantime, concentrate on improving your overall health.
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