Updated: Mar 13, 2022
The appendix is a tubelike body part, which is attached to one end of the large intestine, into which the small intestine dumps its contents. It is usually 8-10 cm long and 1.3 cm wide. Though many doctors and scientists have spent years investigating this strange feature, it is not clear whether the appendix serves any useful purpose in humans. Although specific functions are not clear, researchers have agreed that over time, the appendix is gradually disappearing from the human species.
If anything blocks the opening of the appendix, appendicitis can occur. It can also occur if the walls of the appendix are swollen, which leads to the opening being blocked. Sometimes appendicitis can be cured on its own, but usually it leads to the appendix needing to be surgically removed within 24 hours. If it goes untreated, there is a high chance that the appendix might burst, which leads to shock and death. Although there are many ways the opening of the appendix can be blocked, the most common reason is known to be lymphoid hyperplasia, a rapid increase in the production of white blood cells (lymphocytes). When doctors diagnose appendicitis, they normally try to measure the amount of white blood cells in the body. If it is above the 5,000 - 10,000 count range, then this may be why the appendix is obstructed.
Some symptoms of appendicitis include nausea, vomiting, and a fever, but the most common symptom is pain in the abdomen. After six hours, the pain normally becomes restricted to the lower right-hand side of the stomach, and it usually becomes sharper. One of the only methods to curing appendicitis is the removal of the appendix. This must be done quickly, as there is usually not a lot of time until the appendix explodes.
You've learned about the appendix and certain downsides of it, but there are actually more "unused" body parts that humans have.
One body part that humans do not need is the palmaris longus muscle that runs from the elbow to the wrist. This muscle is thought to have been used by our ancestors when they needed to climb trees. But since we started walking on two feet (about 3.2 million years ago, some humans have evolved without this muscle. In fact, today, about 10% of humans do not have this muscle.
Our wisdom teeth (scientifically known as molars) are another not needed body part. Our ancestors used these to chew hard foods, such as meat. However, the food we eat nowadays are quite soft, and we don't need them anymore. So, if it's causing people pain, it's totally fine to pull them out! (with a dentist's help, of course.)
Last, but not least, another unused body part are the Auricular muscles that control the visible part of the ear. They are used by other mammals to localize sound, but since we have movable necks, we lost the need for just moving our ears. Although some people can wiggle their ears, that is about the most that we can do.
But of course, despite these unused body parts, the human body is quite great. Make sure you subscribe to get notifications after I post a new article about the human body!
Credit to Shutterstock for all the pictures in this post.