• Question: Hello, What is the purpose of the appedix? Because I had a family friend the other day who had appendicitis and her body was not functioning properly: she lost all appetite and her stomach was bloated. I was just wondering why there are such horrible consequences for the disease of the appendix? Why is it there?

    Asked by iheartprofiteroles to Cat, Daz, Johnson, Pamela on 23 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Darren Braddick

      Darren Braddick answered on 22 Jun 2011:

      Hi iheartprofiteroles!

      You are making me hungry again!! OK, the appendix, this is usually the best argument for some kinds of evolution! Think of the human body – it’s generally perfect and able to accomplish anything humans need to do. We can survive, use many food sources, have language and intelligence. We can change the world.

      However, we know that we were not always this way – whatever we came from probably walked on four limbs (and not two), were hairy and did not speak, and probably didn’t think much. In that world, the food they ate and what they ate was very different too!

      Let’s now consider the appendix – an amazing part of the body because it is probably the only part of the body that people know about _when_ it goes wrong!! The thing is, it’s like a small pocket just outside of the digestive tract of the body. When you eat food and drink, this goes through the digestive tract, and usually past the appendix. Now, sometimes something goes wrong and it can be blocked. If this happens, it can be stuck, and really hurts that area. Now if that area continues to be injured, and possibly infected by bacteria, it can become a serious health problem, as you have this continuous injury in your body, which is very very bad and painful.

      I hope your friend recovers well and soon. The method to fix this is to remove the appendix, which is what the surgery required usually does.

      The good news is that there is unlikely to be particularly big health problems with losing the appendix. It seems to be redundant in humans – which basically means we simply do not need it, and we only have it because our very distant ancestors needed it in their lives.

      I hope this helps, and I hope your friend recovers soon!


    • Photo: Cat O'Connor

      Cat O'Connor answered on 23 Jun 2011:

      Num num num, profiteroles!

      I think Daz has given a top-class answer so really don’t have much more to add. The nasty pain, no appetite and big bloaty belly are also symptoms of when you have a nasty infection in your intestines or say something sharp as poked a hole in your intestine and digested and semi-digested food is leaking out. Bacteria can have a horrible effect on our body and we’re so lucky that we know have procedures and drugs to treat them!

      I hope your friend gets better soon. I still have my appendix (and my tonsils) and never remember having an operation (I had one as a baby) so I can’t imagine how sore it is but I’m sure she’ll be glad of some company as she recovers!! You can tell her about all the science stuff you’ve learned in the last week and a bit!

      Thanks for the question!