Chronic Appendicitis

Chronic appendicitis explained

With more than 200,000 cases per year, appendicitis is one of the more common medical diagnoses in the world, with well-researched causes and treatments. However, the cases most people are familiar with can be classified as acute or chronic appendicitis.

This condition begins with a sharp pain that begins near the navel and then migrates to the right side of the abdomen and is often accompanied by vomiting, fever, chills, and poor appetite.

These symptoms are caused by a localized infection that then spreads to the appendix. While none of the symptoms pose a serious threat to health, leaving acute appendicitis untreated can be dangerous, as the inflamed appendix can rupture and cause infection or large buildups of fluid called abscesses.

Luckily, acute appendicitis can be treated with surgery and antibiotics, posing minimal invasive risk to the patient and offering a simple solution readily at hand.

Understanding Chronic Appendicitis

In 1.5% of appendicitis cases, the effects of the condition are able to last for weeks or months and are classified as chronic appendicitis. The symptoms are generally the same as the acute variety but last much longer.

In many cases, symptoms will lighten or disappear altogether, only to reemerge several days or weeks later with renewed vigor.

Chronic Appendicitis symptoms

One of the primary dangers with acute appendicitis is the building internal pressure in the appendix, which threatens to rupture if left untreated. By contrast, chronic appendicitis occurs when the organ's internal pressure is released. This release is what sometimes eases the symptoms of the condition; however, if a partial blockage remains, then pressure will continue to build in the area and pain will return.

Compared to the acute variety, chronic appendicitis is accompanied by a dull ache, as opposed to a sharp pain. Sometimes, this dull abdominal pain is the only symptom experienced, while other cases bring the full spectrum of nausea, fever, and diarrhea. Some patients continue to live with the pain for years without treatment, and since the symptoms can be mild, there have been some that question whether the disease exists at all as a distinct entity from acute appendicitis.

However, in rare cases, chronic appendicitis can be life threatening. Look for the following symptoms to know whether your health is in serious danger.

Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • High fever, above 101 degrees
  • Uncontrolled vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain

Finding treatment

Depending on the severity and type of your appendicitis, treatment can differ. However, the most common course of action is to remove the appendix itself. Since the organ has no known function within the body, it can be removed with minimal impact on health and day-to-day functioning. Doctors can also prescribe analgesic medications to help patients cope with the pain.

Serious complications of appendicitis are rare; however, they can become life threatening. For this reason, it is important to find treatment quickly, as infection can quickly spread if left unchecked.


Appendicitis, in its acute and chronic forms, has a history of being misdiagnosed. The reason for this is because the symptoms associated with the conditions are shared with many other diseases. For example, abdominal pain associated with appendicitis can easily be confused with ovarian cysts, irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, indigestion, and a wide range of other digestive disorders.

Today, the use of imaging technologies like MIR, CT, and ultrasound are able to help physicians offer an accurate diagnosis in most cases. Still, as many as 12% of appendectomies performed today are on patients who do not have appendicitis but a disease with similar symptoms.

Trying antibiotics

Because appendicitis in each of its forms is caused by infection, a number of different antibiotics are able to cure the disorder without the need for invasive surgery. However, in many cases, antibiotics are used in conjunction with surgery, being used for a period of six to eight weeks, followed by an appendectomy after the infection has cleared up.

As many as 63% of patients are able to heal their appendicitis with the use of antibiotics alone. This method has a better track record for avoiding complications and is preferred by most patients.

Last Reviewed:
July 12, 2017
Last Updated:
October 24, 2017
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