Not Just a Stomach Ache: Symptoms of Appendicitis

Not Just a Stomach Ache: Symptoms of Appendicitis

Stomach discomfort is usually nothing serious. But if the aching persists, worsens or is accompanied by other symptoms, it is time to seek medical attention.

Over 600,000 people every year experience a severe stomachache as the first indication that their appendix is damaged or inflamed. But how do you know if you might have just eaten something that didn’t agree with you, or if you have appendicitis?

The appendix is about four inches long, small and finger-shaped. This mysterious organ is part of the large intestine. No one really knows the function of the appendix except that it might serve as a breeding ground for healthy bacteria in the gut after an infection. Or, it may serve no purpose at all. There is much debate amongst the experts. One thing they all can agree on, if it tears, it must come out.

Appendicitis Causes

In some cases, stool gets lodged in the appendix. This can happen easily because the tube-shaped organ is sealed at one end. Once trapped inside, there is no way out, like a tied off the balloon. The small organ continues to produce secretions that build up and cause swelling. Eventually the appendix ruptures or tears.

Appendicitis in children can start when specific tissues get swollen. Is usually not caused by a fecal obstruction when it happens to kids.

When To Visit an ER

Seek emergency medical assistance if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Severe and persistent pain that doesn’t ease up
  • The pain extends to you back
  • Your stomach is tender to the touch

Stomach pain is accompanied by:

  • Chest pain
  • Dark or black stool
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Light-headedness
  • Vomiting
  • Vomiting blood

Symptoms Of Appendicitis

Migrating Pain: The trouble brewing in your appendix might begin a few days before the organ tears or ruptures. You might experience pain in your mid-abdomen similar to a stomachache. If the source of the upset stomach is your appendix, the pain will shift to either side of your abdomen.

Nausea and Vomiting: With appendicitis nausea and vomiting are common signs. Diarrhea tends to signify a gastrointestinal infection.

Loss of Appetite: Sometimes the pain is so bad it triggers a loss of appetite.

Fever: Left untreated, the infection can spread and affect other parts of the abdomen leading to fever.

Making a Diagnosis

A blood test is performed to check the white blood cell count. A high level is indicative of infection. In addition, you may have a CT scan or some other type of imaging.

It is important to rule out all possible conditions. Women tend to be harder to diagnose because the symptoms mimic those of ovarian cysts and other gynecologic issues. In older patients, doctors try to eliminate bowel diseases and gastroenteritis.

Appendicitis Treatment

Once your appendicitis diagnosis has been confirmed, you have several treatment options.

An infected and swollen appendix that has no tears can usually be surgically removed with a minimally invasive procedure. Most patients return home the same day.

A ruptured or torn appendix requires more invasive surgery. If an abscess is present, it must be drained and antibiotics administered. The appendix can be removed once it is no longer swollen.

Open surgery is sometimes needed for more severe cases, involving a larger incision.