Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is there something that causes appendicitis?"
My brother just had appendicitis and had to have his appendix taken out. What causes this? Could it run in the family? Should I do something to make sure that I don't get appendicitis too?
I hope that your brother recovers quickly and uneventfully! Appendicitis is actually a relatively common complaint. Typically, the inflammation and infection in the appendix occurs when partially digested food making its way down the intestines partially blocks the opening into the appendix, itself a small, tube-shaped outpouching of the small intestine near where it joins the large intestine. The trapped food can allow bacteria to grow, further distending and stretching the appendix, and before long there is enough infection/inflammation to cause the clinical symptoms. There are other, more rare causes of appendicitis including a rupture of the small bowel or even lymphoma, but these are quite uncommon and usually associated with several other symptoms. Appendicitis is generally not thought to be hereditary since it is a matter of random luck whether food trafficking down the intestines happens to cause a blockage. Some people may have a longer or shorter appendix at baseline, thus influencing the overall susceptibility to a blockage, but this is not necessarily genetic. There is nothing you can do to prevent appendicitis, but if you notice worsening abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, or any other worrisome changes in your health, it is always a good idea to let you doctor know so you can be examined. With severe symptoms, you can also go to the emergency room for more urgent attention
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