Appendicitis: What You Need to Know

Appendicitis is also known as a perforated or ruptured appendix which affects about 7% of people in the U.S. It is a serious infection of the appendix which is a small finger-like tube located where small and large intestine join. Symptoms often start with abdominal pain that occurs near the belly button or lower right. Patients also experience nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, low-grade fever, constipation and abdominal swelling. 


Almost half of patients with appendicitis feel abdominal pain that moves rapidly to the lower right. If appendicitis is now treated right away, the appendix will likely burst, which then spreads infection throughout the abdomen, which is a dangerous condition called peritonitis. 

Surgery is often the first line of defense to remove the appendix. The procedure, an appendectomy, can prevent this condition which is most likely to occur in people between the ages of 10 and 30. Males, teens, and people with a family member who has had appendicitis are at increased risk.

Appendicitis is considered a medical emergency and if symptoms such as abdominal pain occur for more than 4 hours, patients should seek care immediately. The issue is, the condition can often begin with vague pain that may worsen with moving, coughing, sneezing or taking deep breaths. Other symptoms such as loss of appetite, vomiting, and low-grade fever may occur. An urgent evaluation is required at your doctors office or emergency room if you have any indication of these symptoms.

 If the diagnosis is not certain, the doctor may do tests and closely observe you for several hours, in or out of the hospital, to see if more conclusive signs develop. If you are likely having appendicitis, you'll get immediate surgery to remove the appendix. If you have surgery and the appendix has burst, the doctor will insert a tube to drain fluid from the abdomen for a few days. After an appendectomy, you need to restrict physical activity and diet over the next two to four weeks. Recovery time is longer if the appendix has burst.

One thing patients should note is that appendicitis is worsened from laxatives or enemas. Doctors diagnose it by assessing a patient's mdical history and performing a thorough physical exam including x-rays, ultrasound, urine and blood tests to rule out other causes and confirm diagnosis. 


5 signs you have appendicitis:

1. Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite 

If you experience nausea, vomiting, or a loss of appetite for a few days and eventually goes away, you may have something other than appendicitis. However, if you are nauseous, vomiting, and have no appetite t hat continues to get worse, you may have appendicitis. This is especially possible if these symptoms are accompanied by a fever and lower right abdominal pain. 

2. Diarrhea or constipation 

If you are experience mild diarrhea that has a lot of mucus in it, and have lower right abdominal pain, you may have appendicitis. These symptoms may not be incredibly severe and usually appear after the abdominal pain. 

3. Chills and a fever

Having appendicitis may feel like you have a stomach virus. You may experience chills that make you shake, or a low-grade fever. If you have a fever of about 100 degrees, it could be something other than appendicitis. However, if you have a fever higher than 100 degrees which is accompanied by excruciating stomach pains that are severe enough to keep you from getting up, you may have appendicitis. 

4. Pain in the belly button

The first sign of appendicitis is often pain or discomfort near the belly button. This pain usually radiates down to the lower right side of the abdomen, where the pain associated with appendicitis usually occurs. Pregnant women and children may feel this pain or discomfort in other areas of the abdomen or on a particular side of the body. The pain often gets worse with movement of the legs or the abdomen, such as when you cough, sneeze, or your body is jolted in some way by an external source.

5. Rebound tenderness

This occurs when you push on the lower right part of your abdomen and feel pain when the pressure is released. If you do this and feel pain, do not keep pushing on it. This may be accompanied by nausea, a fever, or other symptoms of appendicitis.