Appendicitis can have more than one cause. In many cases, the cause of appendicitis is unclear. That being said, blockages at or near the opening to the appendix are common identifiable causes of appendicitis
How Do Blockages Cause Appendicitis?
Tissues inside the appendix, known as mucosa, create mucus. This mucus travels from the appendix through a small opening, known as the appendiceal lumen or simply “lumen,” to the large intestine. Obstruction of the lumen can prevent the mucus from flowing into the colon.
The mucosa continues producing mucus despite the obstruction; pressure from accumulating mucus can cause inflammation of the appendix. Left inside the appendix, the excess mucus and the pressure it causes can restrict blood flow to the appendix, kill mucosa cells, and result in ulcerations and breakdown of the mucosa tissue, which can all contribute to the development of appendicitis.
What Blocks the Lumen?
In most cases of appendicitis, stool (fecal material) obstructs the lumen. Stool isn’t the only culprit, though. Lymphoid tissue, which works to fight bacterial and viral infections in the mucosal lining of the intestines and appendix, can swell and cause an obstruction. This condition, known as lymphoid hyperplasia, is common in a number of inflammatory and infectious diseases, including Crohn’s disease, gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, mononucleosis, and measles. Foreign bodies, traumatic abdominal injury, and tumors can also obstruct the lumen.
Other Causes of Appendicitis
Stool, parasites, and growths can obstruct the appendiceal lumen to cause appendicitis; they aren’t the only causes, though.
Appendicitis may also be the result of infections in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and elsewhere in the body; these infections can enlarge the appendix wall.
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Inflammation from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), such as Crohn’s disease, can cause appendicitis, too.
Trauma to the abdomen can result in appendicitis.
Anyone can develop appendicitis, but certain factors can increase the risk of the disease. These risk factors include:
- Age – the risk of appendicitis increases with age, but the risk peaks between the ages of 15 and 30 years old, according to Harvard Medical School
- Gender – appendicitis is 1.4 times more common in cisgender male adults than in cisgender female adults
- Family History – those with a family history of appendicitis are nearly 3 times more likely to develop the disease
What kind of food causes appendicitis?
Low-fiber diets may increase the risk of appendicitis. In fact, Stanford Children’s Health says that appendicitis is rare in countries where people eat high-fiber diets.
Can appendicitis go away on its own?
The symptoms of chronic appendicitis are often very mild and intermittent, so the symptoms can often seem to go away on their own. Acute appendicitis requires immediate treatment, though, and does not usually go away on its own.