Warning Signs of Appendicitis to Watch For

Most people are familiar with tummy troubles like diarrhea and constipation.

But these are just mild stomach troubles.

Food poisoning or stomach virus is something all of us experience at least once or twice in our life.

Appendicitis is a less common condition, affecting only 5% of the world population [1].

But the problem is noticing the signs of appendicitis is challenging, and it might be too late.

If not treated, appendicitis can lead to rupture of the appendix, which is a life-threatening condition.

Now, not every case of appendicitis will lead to rupture of the appendix, but the longer you ignore the signs of appendicitis, the greater the risk [2].

With that in mind, let’s talk what is appendicitis, and what are the signs of the condition.

What is appendicitis?

The simplest way to explain the condition is blockage or obstruction in the appendix, leading to inflammation and infection [3].

The blockage can be caused by a number of things.

For one, a buildup of mucus may cause a blockage.

But there are also causes like fecal matter, parasites, and much more.

When there is a blockage in the appendix, bacteria will multiply inside the organ, causing irritation and ultimately leading to appendicitis.

For those of you that do not know, the appendix is an organ located in the lower right side of the abdomen.

The organ is a narrow, tube-shaped pouch protruding from the large intestine.

It is a vestigial organ, meaning you can life without it.

The appendix does not provide any vital functions.

The purpose of the appendix is a mystery to health care experts.

Some say that the organ contains tissue helping your immune system process infections in the body.

But others dismiss any purpose of the organ.

No matter the purpose and role of the appendix, one thing is clear: ignoring the warning signs of appendicitis will make matters worse, and might result in a fatality [4].

With that in mind, here are the signs of appendicitis that should merit a visit to the doctor’s office.

Early signs of appendicitis

Your stomach hurts more than ever

Appendicitis usually causes severe pain that starts in the belly button and moves to the lower right side of the abdomen.

And no, it is nothing you have felt before.

Forget abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation, or other type of abdominal pain.

Appendicitis is usually unbearable, and it hurts even more when you are walking, coughing, or going over a bump while driving in the car [5].

When you suffer from appendicitis, your entire abdominal wall could be inflamed, and the appendix is on the verge of bursting.

It might have already been ruptured, in which case, a surgery is necessary.

Rapidly worsening pain

With other digestion problems, the pain is usually constant and dull.

That is not the case with appendicitis.

Once the pain starts at the belly button, it will rapidly move to the lower part of the abdomen and become very intense.

Patients describe it the pain like “no other pain they’ve felt before”.

Pain caused by appendicitis, once spread, can wake up someone who is sleeping.

The severity of the pain increases quickly, usually within hours.

Nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite

You might think you are battling stomach bug because of the early signs of appendicitis.

After all, nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite are the most common symptoms of stomach bug.

But when they accompany the pain, you need to be careful.

In some cases, however, patients do not experience vomiting and nausea.

Inflammation of the appendix can also impact other aspects of the GI tract and the nervous system, which is why you might feel nauseated and you tend to vomit.

More frequent visits to the bathroom

The appendix is not positioned in the same location at all people.

In some people, the appendix is located lower in the pelvis, making it close to the bladder.

And when our bladder comes in contact with the inflamed appendix, the bladder also becomes inflamed and irritated.

The result is frequent urination and more visits to the bathroom.

You might feel like you have to pee all the time, and it will usually hurt when you are trying to pee.

Bear in mind, this symptom is very similar to when you have urinary tract infection.

Mild fever

Whenever you have inflammation somewhere in the body, you might feel fever and chills.

With signs of appendicitis, the fever is usually mild, and ranges between 99F (37.2 C), and 100.5F (38 C).

If the appendix bursts, the infection will cause the fever to go up.

Fever higher than 101F (38.3 C) accompanied by increase in heart rate means your appendix has ruptured.

Gas and bloating

The reason why appendicitis is usually tricky to diagnose is because the early signs of appendicitis are very similar to other digestive troubles.

The big difference is the pain that worsens quickly.

But when you have appendicitis, you will experience gas and bloating, but also nausea, vomiting, and other digestive troubles.

If you go to sleep after your indulgence of food, and you wake up still in pain, be careful, it might be sign of appendicitis.

When you are bloated for more than a couple of days, and you constantly have a lot of gas accompanied by bowel pain, this is also a sign of appendicitis.

You are not all there

This is usually the later sign of appendicitis.

You are feeling confused and disoriented, meaning that the infection is getting worse.

At this point, it is possible that the infection has entered the bloodstream, which is fatal and life-threatening problem.

If you are acting erratically, do not delay.

Check with your physician as soon as possible.

What to do?

The first thing you need to do if you suspect signs of appendicitis is run to the hospital [6].

But there are some other things you have to do the minute you notice the symptoms:

  • Do not think for a second about home remedies, as they do not help
  • Avoid taking over the counter medications for the signs of appendicitis
  • Laxatives can cause more problems, like causing the appendix to rupture. The same applies for enemas
  • Pain medications only mask the symptoms, but they make it harder for doctors to make a quick diagnosis. Do not take them

Causes and complications that might happen

The most common cause of appendicitis is blockage in the lining of the appendix resulting in an infection.

Bacteria rapidly multiply, causing inflammation to the appendix.

The appendix will become swollen and filled with pus.

If the condition is not treated, there are possible complications like:

  • Ruptured appendix when a rupture spreads the infection throughout your abdomen, and is possibly a life-threatening condition. It requires immediate surgery
  • Pocket of pus forming in the abdomen, when the appendix bursts and you develop abscess. In this case, the physician must fully drain the abscess, and only when the infection is clear, he/she can perform a surgery to remove the appendix

Diagnosis and treatment

Now that you know the signs of appendicitis, it is important that you take a trip to the doctor’s office.

There, your physician will try diagnosing the condition.

It can be tricky and challenging, since the symptoms are vague or similar to ailments like bladder or urinary tract infection, gastritis, gallbladder problems, ovary problems, and intestinal infection.

Therefore, a health care expert will have to perform few tests to diagnose the problem and what to do afterwards [7].

Those are:

  • Urine test
  • Rectal exam
  • Abdominal exam to detect inflammation
  • Blood test to check for infections
  • CT scans or ultrasound

The standard treatment for appendicitis is surgery, called appendectomy.

In most cases, if doctors suspect appendicitis, they are quick to remove the appendix, in a better to be safe than sorry mantra [8].

Doctors want to be on the safe side of safety and quickly remove the appendix to avoid rupture.

If the appendix has formed an abscess, there are two options for treatment [9].

One is to drain the abscess of pus and fluid, and the other is to fully the appendix.

signs of appendicitis

Sources:

  1. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/773895-overview
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2239906
  3. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/773895-clinical
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3938026/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1562475/
  6. https://journals.lww.com/annalsofsurgery/Fulltext/2017/08000/The_Global_Incidence_of_Appendicitis__A_Systematic.8.aspx
  7. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02687464
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26080338
  9. https://www.pcori.org/research-results/2015/comparing-surgery-versus-antibiotics-treat-appendicitis-coda-study

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Emily

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