The causes of appendicitis relate to events that precedes colonization of the appendix by bugs or micro organisms.
Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix by micro organism, often following an event brings about reduction in the blood supply to the appendix, leading to perforation and huge pus formation and collection if not quickly diagnosed.
Any phenomenon that leads to blockade of the lumen of the appendix could compromise the blood supply to the appendix.
Once the blood supply is compromised, bugs could easily translocate via the wall of the appendix to cause inflammation of the appendix (appendicitis).
Well documented causes of appendicitis in all age groups include :
Faecolith.Faecolith occurs when faeces get stuck in the lumen of the appendix, becomes dried up and very hard (rock hard). It then causes blockade. The faeces is unable to pass down the lumen of the appendix. Eating regular fibre rich diet is thought to reduce the chances of this occurring.
Swollen lymph glands. Following a common cold, or some other infections, viral or bacterial, the glands on the wall of the appendix could become swollen, and block the lumen of the appendix. This explains why appendicitis is commoner in the winter period or during a change of weather in some places, and the beginning of harvesting season (maize season in West Africa) when cold and diarrhoea are common as well.
Mucus. For some reasons, the appendix may secrete a lot of thick slime or mucus into its lumen. The mucus becomes mixed with desquamated cells from the wall of the appendix, forming a very thick pug. This could accumulate and cause blockade of the lumen, cutting off or reducing blood supply to the appendix and precipitating appendicitis.
Worm infestation. In some parts of the world where worm infestation is still rampant, heavy load of worm can block the lumen of the appendix. Commonly found are shistosomiasis, pinworm (Oxyuris vermicularis) and (Ascaris lumbricoides). This is thus one of most causes of appendicitis in developing countries.
Foreign Body. Foreign bodies have been found in the appendix, though rare. This may be in form of small swallowed beads to grain of fruits, cereals or sand.
Tumour. Again this is rare, but occurs especially in elderly patients. The obstructing tumour may be originally from the appendix, or a spread from other tumour site. A common tumour associated with acute appendicitis is the carcinoid tumour of the appendix. While the tumour in it self does not constitute one of the causes of appendicitis, they could worsen the disease process.
The appendix can also become diseased for no apparent reason.
As soon as the bugs invade the wall of the appendix, it starts to swell and becomes red like a boil would. This causes a great deal of pain. If nothing is done, it could become so swollen that it bursts.
Sometimes, the infection is put in check by the body and the appendicitis resolves on its own, and you get better. This is not often the case.
If the appendix burst (ruptures), it could cause faeces to pour out from the bowel to contaminate the inside of the abdomen. Pus can also be formed from the infected appendix
Appendicitis is a potentially dangerous condition. People have died from this condition if not recognized and treated on time.
In fact, 1 0ut of every 1000 persons (0.1%) with inflammation of the appendix in the general population could die, and this figure sharply rises to 1 in every five persons (20%) over the age of 70 with appendicitis could die from complications of the disease because of diagnostic problems.