What Causes Appendicitis? Know the Risk Factors

woman having stomach pain

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  • Unfortunately, the exact reason why appendicitis happens is unknown, although it’s said that this ailment can have more than one cause
  • If not treated immediately, your appendix may rupture, causing its contents to spill all over the abdomen, leading to peritonitis, which is inflammation of the tissues of your abdominal wall

Many people ask, "How do you get appendicitis?" so they can know how to proactively avoid this painful condition. Unfortunately, the exact reason why appendicitis happens is unknown, although it's said that this ailment can have more than one cause. Here are some of the potential risk factors that can cause this ailment to manifest.

Blockage May Lead to This Painful Ailment

Experts believe that having either partial or complete obstruction in the appendiceal lumen (appendix lumen) is the primary cause of appendicitis. The latter is considered a cause for an emergency surgical procedure. Appendiceal lumen blockage may occur either because of the accumulation of fecal matter or other materials, such as:

Intestinal parasites like pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis)

Appendicoliths or fecaliths (Calcified fecal deposits). These are also known as "appendix stones"

Enlarged lymph tissue on the appendix wall, which usually arises because of GI tract infections

Ulcers and other GI tract irritation caused by chronic digestive ailments like ulcerative colitis and diverticulitis

Foreign objects like bullets, stones, pins and air gun pellets that have been accidentally ingested

Tumors

Once obstructed, bacteria may proliferate inside the appendix, leading pus to form and putting excessive pressure on the organ, compressing the blood vessels and causing intense pain.1

Appendicitis May Arise Because of an Infection

Infections, whether viral, bacterial or fungal in nature, may spread to the appendix and wreak havoc, causing an obstruction. Some of the common infections that may lead to appendicitis include:2

Adenovirus

Bacteroides bacteria

Salmonella

Measles

Shigella bacteria

Mucormycosis and histoplasmosis fungal infections

When these pathogenic organisms make their way inside the digestive tract, they can cause the lymph nodes to swell, which in turn squeezes the appendix and causes an obstruction. This condition is known as lymphoid hyperplasia.3

Is Appendicitis Hereditary?

Other people who get appendicitis usually have genetics as an underlying risk factor. If one or more member of your family had previously experienced this ailment, you should consider the fact that you may have a genetic variant that predisposes you to having an obstruction in the appendiceal lumen.4 One study found that people who have a family history of appendicitis may have a nearly three times higher risk of getting this ailment.5

Whatever the Cause, Appendicitis Should Never Be Ignored

In some cases, appendicitis may also be triggered by trauma or external injury to the abdomen, although this is rare.6 Whatever the cause, though, appendicitis is not a simple ailment that should be dismissed. If not treated immediately, your appendix may rupture, causing its contents to spill all over the abdomen, leading to peritonitis, which is the inflammation of the tissues of your abdominal wall.7

Sometimes, the infected appendix may leak instead of rupturing, causing an abscess to form. This means the infection is confined to a small walled-off area. Nevertheless, it should not be ignored. If you experience any of the signs of appendicitis, consult your physician immediately to confirm the diagnosis.

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Appendicitis Prevention

Appendicitis Treatment

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