How to Know if You Have Appendicitis

Abdominal Pain

Feb 2, 2024


Experiencing any type of pain in your abdomen can be a deeply uncomfortable and concerning experience. However, understanding how to know if you have appendicitis apart from other illnesses can help you determine when to go to the ER for stomach pain and prevent a possible appendix rupture. Appendicitis can be a life-threatening condition if not treated promptly, so take note of the appendicitis symptoms below.

How to know if you have appendicitis:

  • Constant, severe pain in the lower right-hand side of your abdomen
  • Abdominal swelling 
  • Abdominal pain when you move, sneeze, cough, or breathe deeply
  • High body temperature or fever 
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea 
  • Loss of appetite

If any of these symptoms appear, head to an emergency room as soon as possible. Complete Care is a 24/7 freestanding ER with multiple locations that can help you treat your appendicitis and abdominal pain. 

What is the main cause of appendicitis?

Appendicitis refers to the inflammation of your appendix. The appendix is a small, thin tube that is attached to the large intestine. Bacterial infection, swelling, and potential complications can arise when the appendix becomes blocked or obstructed. This commonly occurs when bacteria or viruses get into the digestive tract or when hardened stool blocks the appendix tube leading to inflammation. In some cases, tumors that form in the digestive tract can also lead to blockages and infection.

If your appendix becomes blocked it can burst as soon as 48 to 72 hours after you have appendicitis symptoms. Because of this, appendicitis is considered a medical emergency and must be treated as promptly as possible. This is why education surrounding how to know if you have appendicitis is so crucial to understand. 

Keep reading: Can overeating make you sick?

How do you check if you have appendicitis?

Knowing when you have appendicitis involves paying attention to specific appendicitis symptoms and seeking medical attention for a proper diagnosis. 

Appendicitis symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain: The most prominent symptom of appendicitis is often pain in the lower right side of the abdomen, which may start around the belly button and intensify over time. For some people, the pain can increase very suddenly and become severe.
  • Abdominal swelling: The abdomen may become swollen and tender to the touch.
  • High body temperature or fever: A low-grade fever coupled with abdominal pain may indicate an infection.
  • Abdominal pain specifically when you move, sneeze, cough, or breathe deeply
  • Nausea or vomiting may occur due to the irritation and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract as the appendix becomes swollen and infected.
  • Constipation can occur when the inflamed appendix irritates the intestine and disrupts normal bowel movements, leading to difficulty in passing stool.
  • Diarrhea may result from irritation of the intestinal lining caused by the inflammation of the appendix, leading to increased bowel movements and loose stools.
  • Loss of appetite in appendicitis can occur as the body’s response to inflammation and infection, diverting energy away from digestion and towards fighting the illness

If any of these symptoms arise, avoid taking pain medicationand head to the emergency room immediately. Even if it is not appendicitis, it’s always better to be cautious and seek medical help than to risk a rupture and harmful infections.

What can be mistaken for appendix pain?

Because stomach pain can mean so many different things from indigestion to infection, it can be easy to mistake other types of conditions for appendix pain. If you are having pain that isn’t caused by appendicitis here are some other conditions you may be experiencing:

  • Left side abdominal pain is often confused for appendicitis when the appendix is on the right side of the abdomen. 
  • Diverticulitis occurs when pockets develop within the walls of the large intestine and share common symptoms with appendicitis (Keep reading: How long does diverticulitis last?). 
  • Gastroenteritis or inflammation of the stomach and intestines can cause abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, similar to appendicitis. 
  • A bladder infection or Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) can cause lower abdominal pain and be mistaken for appendicitis. 
  • Women who experience ovarian cysts may feel pain in their lower abdomen. 

If you’re looking for how to know if you have appendicitis, your best bet is to get a medical professional’s opinion with a proper diagnosis. 

Can appendicitis resolve on its own?

No, appendicitis is not a condition that can resolve by itself and will require medical attention. If left untreated, the inflammation of the appendix can progress and lead to serious complications. In some cases, an appendix may rupture, causing infection to spread throughout the abdominal cavity, posing a significant health risk. As mentioned earlier, this can happen anywhere from 48 to 72 hours after you have begun feeling symptoms, making seeking medical help crucial.

While there may be instances where appendicitis symptoms may temporarily improve, that does not mean that the problem has resolved itself. Delaying or avoiding medical care can increase the risk of complications including deadly infection. Do not delay seeking medical treatment if you think you may have appendicitis.

Appendicitis treatment 

When you arrive at the emergency room, blood tests, urine tests, or in some cases, an ultrasound or CT scan may be used to diagnose you with appendicitis. Depending on your results, your doctor will determine your treatment plan and next steps. 

If you indeed have appendicitis, surgical removal of the inflamed appendix — also known as an appendectomy — is a common and effective treatment for appendicitis. Two types of appendectomy surgeries can be performed depending on whether your appendix has burst or not. If your appendix has not ruptured or it was caught early enough, your doctor may perform a laparoscopic appendectomy which is a minimally invasive way of removing the appendix and has a shorter recovery time of a few days. 

However, for more severe cases of appendicitis where complications are present and a rupture has occurred, an open appendectomy may be necessary. An open appendectomy is a more serious procedure that can involve the insertion of a shunt to facilitate the drainage of pus and other fluids from the abdominal cavity. The removal of the shunt is typically scheduled a few days later if the infection has subsided. Recovery from an open appendectomy procedure can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks and will require antibiotic medication. 

Get a timely appendicitis diagnosis at Complete Care

Now that you are aware of how to know if you have appendicitis, we hope that you also have a better understanding of the severity of this condition and how important prompt medical care is. If you believe you may be experiencing appendicitis symptoms, head to a Complete Care facility. As a freestanding emergency room, our wait times are extremely low compared to general hospitals so that our patients can be seen as soon as possible. 

Our on-site hospital-grade imaging services including ultrasounds and CT scans allow our physicians to provide you with results in minutes so that you can receive a diagnosis for your abdominal pain. From there, we will craft a treatment plan to ensure that you will be taken care of. 

Patients say that Complete Care is the best emergency room due to our compassionate staff, low wait times, and commitment to quality emergency care. We have multiple locations in Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, Lubbock, and San Antonio) and in Colorado Springs. No matter your illness, our staff is ready and able to welcome you in with open arms. 

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