Recognizing the symptoms of appendicitis is crucial to getting prompt treatment and avoiding serious complications. Given how the symptoms of appendicitis can often be misdiagnosed, it’s helpful to research this information online before consulting a doctor.
Appendicitis in Americans
Appendicitis is a condition that affects between 5% and 9% of Americans at some point in their lifetime. It occurs when the appendix, a small, finger-shaped pouch attached to the large intestine, becomes inflamed and filled with pus. If left untreated, the appendix can rupture, causing infection and potentially life-threatening complications. While appendicitis can strike at any age, it is most common in people between the ages of 10 and 30.
One of the most common symptoms of appendicitis is pain in the abdomen. The pain typically begins near the navel and then shifts to the lower right side of the abdomen. The pain may be mild at first but can quickly become severe and sharp. It is often described as a dull, constant ache that worsens with movement, coughing, or sneezing.
Loss of Appetite
The body’s response to inflammation and infection can lead to a loss of appetite, bloating, and indigestion. You may find that you have no desire to eat, or that eating worsens your abdominal pain. In severe cases, you may also experience nausea and vomiting.
Fever is a common symptom of many infections, including appendicitis. If you have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, it may be a sign that your body is fighting an infection. Those with appendicitis may have a fever between 99°F and 100.5°F, along with chills. A temperature upwards of 101°F may indicate the appendix has already burst.
Constipation or Diarrhea
Changes in bowel movements can also be a symptom of appendicitis. In fact, this is a common reason why people mistake appendicitis for a simple upset digestive system. You may experience constipation or diarrhea, or alternate between the two.
Bloating and Gas
Bloating and gas are also common symptoms that may indicate appendicitis. You may feel bloated and gassy even if you haven’t eaten a large meal, and you may have trouble passing gas. Alternatively, you may be able to pass gas, but still have a building feeling of gas pains.
Nausea and/or Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms that can occur leading up to an episode of appendicitis. This is because the inflammation and swelling of the appendix can irritate the surrounding nerves and organs, leading to feelings of nausea and vomiting. According to Health.com, early symptoms of appendicitis may feel similar to those of a stomach bug.
When to Speak to a Doctor
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of appendicitis, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Appendicitis can quickly become a medical emergency, so do not delay seeking treatment. If you are experiencing severe abdominal pain, a high fever, vomiting, or difficulty passing gas or having a bowel movement, go to the emergency room or call your doctor immediately. Your doctor may order blood tests, imaging tests, or other diagnostic tests to confirm a diagnosis of appendicitis.
If you are diagnosed with appendicitis, you will likely need surgery to remove the appendix. With prompt treatment, most people make a full recovery from appendicitis.