Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, a finger-shaped pouch that projects from your colon on the lower right side of your abdomen. The appendix doesn't seem to have a specific purpose.
Appendicitis causes pain in your lower right abdomen. However, in most people, pain begins around the navel and then moves. As inflammation worsens, appendicitis pain typically increases and eventually becomes severe.
Although anyone can develop appendicitis, most often it occurs in people between the ages of 10 and 30. Standard treatment is surgical removal of the appendix.
Signs and symptoms of appendicitis may include:
The site of your pain may vary, depending on your age and the position of your appendix. When you're pregnant, the pain may seem to come from your upper abdomen because your appendix is higher during pregnancy.
Make an appointment with a doctor if you or your child has worrisome signs or symptoms. Severe abdominal pain requires immediate medical attention.
A blockage in the lining of the appendix that results in infection is the likely cause of appendicitis. The bacteria multiply rapidly, causing the appendix to become inflamed, swollen and filled with pus. If not treated promptly, the appendix can rupture.
To help diagnose appendicitis, your doctor will likely take a history of your signs and symptoms and examine your abdomen.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose appendicitis include:
Physical exam to assess your pain. Your doctor may apply gentle pressure on the painful area. When the pressure is suddenly released, appendicitis pain will often feel worse, signaling that the adjacent peritoneum is inflamed.
Your doctor also may look for abdominal rigidity and a tendency for you to stiffen your abdominal muscles in response to pressure over the inflamed appendix (guarding).
Your doctor may use a lubricated, gloved finger to examine your lower rectum (digital rectal exam). Women of childbearing age may be given a pelvic exam to check for possible gynecological problems that could be causing the pain.
Appendicitis can cause serious complications, such as:
A pocket of pus that forms in the abdomen. If your appendix bursts, you may develop a pocket of infection (abscess). In most cases, a surgeon drains the abscess by placing a tube through your abdominal wall into the abscess. The tube is left in place for two weeks, and you're given antibiotics to clear the infection.
Once the infection is clear, you'll have surgery to remove the appendix. In some cases, the abscess is drained, and the appendix is removed immediately.
Your doctor will prescribe medications to help you control your pain after your appendectomy. Some complementary and alternative treatments, when used with your medications, can help control pain. Ask your doctor about safe options, such as:
Expect a few weeks of recovery from an appendectomy, or longer if your appendix burst. To help your body heal: