There are two particular types of appendicitis, based on their severity, duration and how they manifest. Although they have certain differences, they have one thing in common: Tthey both come with abdominal pain.1
Acute Appendicitis Is the More Common Kind
When people talk about appendicitis, this is the kind that they most likely are referring to. Acute appendicitis, as its name implies, develops very fast, usually in a span of several days or hours. It is easier to detect and requires prompt medical treatment, usually surgery.
Acute appendicitis occurs when the vermiform appendix is completely obstructed, either because of a bacterial infection, feces or other types of blockage. Infection may also cause swelling of the lymph nodes, which then adds pressure on the appendix, cutting off its blood supply.
When pathogenic bacteria proliferate rapidly inside the appendix, it leads to inflammation and the formation of pus, which then causes the organ to die.
The inflammation is quite serious — if not addressed early, it can cause the appendix to rupture (perforated appendicitis), which can result in complications like sepsis, peritonitis and gangrene.
The hallmark symptom of acute appendicitis is intense and continuous abdominal pain. It worsens when you breathe, sneeze, cough or move around. Acute appendicitis may also come with constipation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
Appendicitis Can Be Chronic (But It’s a Rare Condition)
Unlike acute appendicitis that comes on suddenly and intensely (usually manifesting in several hours or a day or two), chronic appendicitis is an inflammation that can last for a long time. This is rare — according to a report published in Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, it only occurs in only 1.5 percent of recorded acute appendicitis cases.2
Basically, chronic appendicitis means that the appendiceal lumen is only partially obstructed, causing inflammation. The inflammation worsens over time, causing internal pressure to buildup. However, instead of bursting, the partial obstruction will be overcome by pressure, allowing the appendix’s contents to move out of the pouch. This will allow the symptoms to subside or even disappear — only to return if the obstruction becomes inflamed again.3
Chronic appendicitis can last for weeks, months and sometimes years. It is also more difficult to diagnose, but unlike acute appendicitis, it may not need surgical intervention. The symptoms vary from one person to another.
Nevertheless, abdominal pain is a hallmark symptom, although it’s less intense than that of acute appendicitis. Sometimes, it’s the only symptom that you experience. The pain brought on by chronic appendicitis may be severe, but is often described as a dull ache. Some patients with this condition may also experience other symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea and fever as well.4
Stump Appendicitis: A Rare Appendectomy Side Effect
In most instances of appendicitis, an appendectomy is the usual procedure recommended, and it works by completely taking out the appendix to prevent it from rupturing. If the appendix has already ruptured, additional treatment measures are performed during an appendectomy, as the infection needs to be prevented from spreading.
However, appendectomy may come with certain complications. One example is stump appendicitis. This is defined as “an acute inflammation of the residual appendix,” which occurs after an open or laparoscopic appendectomy.5 This type of appendicitis manifests when there is an obstruction, usually by a piece of feces, in the lumen of the remaining appendix, or “stump.”6 It’s typically rare, however, occurring in only 1 out of 50,000 appendectomies.7
Whether you’re dealing with acute or chronic appendicitis, remember that any surgical intervention may have potential complications, even after a certain period of time has passed.