Not just a stomach Ache: Symptoms of Appendicitis

Most of the time, an achy stomach isn’t anything serious. But when your pain persists, migrates, or is accompanied by other serious symptoms, a trip to the emergency room could be in order.

For more than 600,000 people each year, stomach pain is their first clue that their appendix has torn and they’re suffering appendicitis.

The appendix is part of the large intestine – a small, finger-shaped organ about 4 inches long, whose function is still largely a mystery, though it might offer a breeding ground for healthy gut bacteria after an infection.

Appendicitis Causes

Sometimes stool can get stuck in the appendix, which is shaped like a tube with one closed end. Like a balloon that’s been tied off, there’s no way for what’s trapped inside to escape. The pressure builds as the appendix continues producing its normal secretions. The organ swells, and once this process starts, the appendix can tear or rupture.

In children, appendicitis can start when the certain tissues in the appendix that are rich in immune system cells get swollen. When kids get appendicitis, it’s usually this and not a fecal obstruction that causes it.

When to seek help

Your stomach pain is worth a trip to the emergency room when:

  • Pain is severe and doesn’t let up
  • Your stomach is tender to the touch
  • The pain extends to your back
  • Pain is accompanied by:
    • Fever
    • Vomiting
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Chest pain
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Light-headedness
    • Dark or black stool
    • Vomiting blood

Symptoms commonly associated with appendicitis

Migrating Pain: Your appendix troubles might start several days before the organ becomes torn or ruptures. During this time, you might have pain in the middle of your abdomen that feels like an upset stomach. If your appendix is the issue, this pain tends to move to the right or lower right side of the abdomen.

Nausea and vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are associated with appendicitis, but diarrhea is more consistent with a gastrointestinal infection.

Loss of appetite: If a patient says they’re not interested in their favorite dish, it tips him off to pain so bad that it has caused loss of apetite.

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