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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is appendicitis?

Appendicitis is inflammation of your appendix. The appendix is a small pouch. It is attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. The appendix may get blocked by food or by part of a bowel movement that becomes hard. The appendix can become infected with bacteria or a virus. Appendicitis can also be caused by a parasite or tumor. You will need immediate care to prevent a ruptured appendix. A ruptured appendix can cause bacteria to leak into the abdomen. This can lead to a serious infection called peritonitis.

Abdominal Organs

What are the signs and symptoms of appendicitis?

Symptoms may start suddenly. The most common symptom is pain that starts at the belly button and moves to the lower right side of your abdomen. The pain worsens when you touch your abdomen, move, sneeze, cough, or take a deep breath. You may also have any of the following:

  • Abdomen that feels hard
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever

How is appendicitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and check for pain or tenderness in your abdomen. You may also need any of the following:

  • Blood tests may show if you have an infection.
  • A urine test may be used to check for a urinary tract infection or kidney stone.
  • CT or ultrasound pictures of your abdomen may be used to check your appendix. You may be given contrast liquid to help your appendix show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is appendicitis treated?

  • Medicines may be given to fight an infection or to manage pain. Ask your healthcare provider how to take pain medicine safely.
  • Drainage may be needed if you develop an abscess after a burst appendix. To drain the abscess, your healthcare provider guides a tube through your skin and into the abscess. Infected fluid drains through the tube.
  • An appendectomy is surgery to remove your appendix. Your appendix may be removed through small incisions in your abdomen. If your appendix has burst, you may need an open appendectomy. A single, larger incision is made to remove the appendix and clean out the abdomen.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have severe pain in your abdomen.
  • You are vomiting and cannot keep food down.
  • You have abdominal pain that does not go away, even after you take medicine.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have trouble having a bowel movement, or you have diarrhea.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.