UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – On this Aspirus Medical Monday, the topic of discussion is appendicitis and its signs and symptoms.

Dr. Rachel Laszko, a general surgeon for Aspirus Health, first discusses what appendicitis is.

“The appendix is a little piece of intestine that comes off the colon. So the large intestine comes up your right side, goes across the middle of the abdomen, then down on the left. The appendix is usually about the size of my pinky finger, and kind of hangs off the end of what’s called the cecum, or the beginning of the intestine. That organ when it becomes inflamed is what we call appendicitis. So anytime that organ becomes irritated, becomes inflamed, all in and of itself that is when you’re diagnosed with what’s clinically called appendicitis.”

What can cause appendicitis?

“Anything that causes that piece of intestine to become blocked will lead to infection or inflammation of the appendix. So, in kids, we see things like lymph nodes that will get enlarged that live inside the appendix. That can be caused by a viral illness or bacterial illness. If they get the flu they may get swelling of that lymph tissue and that will cause the appendix to get inflamed and irritated.

“In adults, we tend to see things a little more commonly like pieces of stool getting stuck inside of the appendix and can cause it to get inflamed. Other things like infections and tumors actually, sometimes we’ll see cancers that will be growing inside of the appendix or in the colon and they cause a blockage that eventually leads the appendix to become inflamed,” said Laszko.

What are the signs and symptoms of appendicitis?

“First thing that people tend to notice is that they’ll have pain in the upper, middle of their abdomen. So right near the belly button is where they tend to have pain. That’s because as the appendix initially gets infected the nerves that go to that area they’re called the visceral nerves. They then travel to around the belly button area and so you’ll get pain right there.

“As time goes on and your appendix’s inflammation gets worse, that will start to irritate the lining of your abdominal wall and so you’ll get that pain that’s right on the right side of your side down low. So patient’s pain will move from the belly button area down to the lower right quadrant and so that is one of the more common signs we see in patients.”

She also mentions if you are experiencing the symptoms of appendicitis, you should visit the nearest emergency room or urgent care clinic. From there, the most common treatment for appendicitis is the removal of the appendix via surgery.