The appendix is a pouch-shaped organ connected to the large intestine on the lower right-hand side of your abdomen. An obstruction in the appendix can lead to its inflammation and infection; a condition commonly referred to as appendicitis. The blockage may be due to accumulation of mucus, parasites or fecal matter.
The appendix, despite from being a part of the gastrointestinal tract, is a vestigial organ. This implies that it is not responsible for any vital function in the body, and an individual can lead a completely healthy life even without it.
In the case of an inflamed appendix, it is vital to get treatment as soon as possible. Otherwise, this can lead to its rupture and consequent release of dangerous bacteria into your body.
This is when the condition snowballs into a life-threatening situation. Hence, it is important to identify the early symptoms of appendicitis and seek medical attention immediately.
Listed below are some of the early warning signs of appendicitis and how you can address these.
1. Acute pain in the abdomen
- In half of the cases, the appendicitis pain starts off as a dull ache around the belly-button area.
- It will then intensify quickly and become debilitating and severe within a span of few hours. Mothers often compare this pain to the kind they experience during labor.
- If the pain is left untreated at this point, it will prevent you from participating in normal activities. If you experience it in sleep, the pain will be so intense that you will be awakened and unable to get back to sleep.
- Some people have appendix located behind the colon. In appendicitis, these people have experienced lower back or pelvic pain.
- Pain in the abdomen should be treated as an emergency, and you must seek immediate medical assistance.
2. Mild nausea
Nausea is another symptom of appendicitis, and it can occur even before you start experiencing abdominal pain. You may also experience vomiting followed by sharp and severe pain in the abdomen area.
If your nausea or vomiting is accompanied by localized pain that increases in intensity and is concentrated in your lower right abdominal area, then the probable cause of this condition is appendicitis. In this condition, it is imperative that you seek medical treatment at the earliest possible time.
3. Low-intensity fever and chills
The symptoms of appendicitis, in its initial stages, can be likened to ordinary stomach flu.
- You will have a mild or sharp stomach ache.
- You will generally feel unwell, and maybe some chills.
- Your chills may be accompanied by low-intensity fever that leaves you sweating.
- Within a few hours, your body temperature may rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Worsening abdominal pain along with lower back pain or rectal pain indicates an appendicitis infection.
So, it is important that you pay close attention to your fever, especially when you are showing multiple symptoms as well.
4. Bloating and gas
After eating an elaborate meal or consuming large amounts of water, you typically feel bloated. However, this would subside in a few hours, and you would feel normal again. One of the early warning signs of appendicitis is bloating and gas that does not go away.
These symptoms worsen over the course of time and culminate in constipation, bowel discomfort, and difficulty in bowel movements. Most of the people affected by appendicitis are not aware of this symptom.
They realize that the condition could be due to the inflammation of the appendix only when nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain sets in.
5. Painful movement of the body
As time progresses, the appendicitis pain will become so severe that it will inhibit you from performing daily activities, and even make it unbearable to sneeze or cough. This can be likened to the pain you experience at the time of a rib injury.
You may notice a sharp pain when you walk or turn your torso to one side. This pain is usually concentrated in the lower right portion of the abdomen. Within a day or two, the pain intensifies, and it could spread from your abdomen down to your legs.
During this time, you will also be experiencing other symptoms that make a trip to the emergency room inevitable.
6. Tenderness of the abdomen
In rare cases of appendicitis, the abdominal pain is not severe enough to be diagnosed accurately. However, even in such cases, you will experience a situation commonly referred to as “rebound tenderness”.
To check if you are experiencing rebound tenderness,
- Press down on the lower right side of your abdomen in a firm manner, with as much pressure as you can tolerate.
- Hold the pressure for some time (a few seconds) till you release.
- Once the pressure is off, you will feel the pain intensifying and then subsiding back into a dull pain. At the time it is intense, you will experience a stabbing sensation.
- Rebound tenderness is an early symptom of appendicitis. It is usually seen before the onset of any other symptoms of the condition.
- Following rebound tenderness, the pain usually intensifies and moves to the lower right side of the abdomen, towards your pelvic area, and sometimes, down your legs.
7. Digestive upset or Diarrhea
This is one of the contradictory symptoms of appendicitis. Diarrhea usually starts on a mild scale and then gets worse. It might even reach a point where you become terribly dehydrated!
In an ordinary case of diarrhea, if the condition persists for more than 2 hours, it is advisable to take over-the-counter treatments to mitigate it. If it intensifies even after that, it could be an indication of something more serious.
You should observe the presence of mucus in your bowel movements. In the case of diarrhea accompanying appendicitis, you would feel the urge to use the washroom on an hourly basis, or even more than that. This is a dangerous situation because you lose a lot of fluids from your body. In such a scenario, you need to stay hydrated till you get to a doctor. You can also avail doctor consultation at home.
8. Discomfort after bowel movements
Tenesmus is the medical term used to refer to the uncomfortable feeling of wanting to pass stools after you have already gone. There are a couple of unique characteristics for the tenesmus you feel when you are suffering from appendicitis.
- Since the urgency of the bowel movements is so amplified in appendicitis, the tenesmus is also more intense, when compared to a normal scenario.
- Tenesmus in appendicitis is accompanied by pain, cramping, and straining.
- These symptoms, coupled with others like nausea, vomiting, bloating and gas definitely warrants a visit to the doctor.
9. Swelling in the abdomen
There is a difference between abdominal swelling and bloating. The latter is a condition in which you have a build-up of gas in your stomach. This is usually accompanied by a feeling of fullness and flatulence, and you will be unable to fully get rid of it.
However, the abdominal swelling due to appendicitis is not coupled with pressure inside your stomach. Instead, there is a physical enlargement of your appendix that applies undue pressure on the tissues surrounding the inflammation.
This is more evident in the lower right side of your abdomen, where you can see a swelling that is sensitive to touch. If the pain at this point is extremely intense, and the pressure around the swollen area disturbs you even when untouched, then you should immediately consult a doctor.
10. Painful urination
This is not a symptom that is usually associated with appendicitis. However, there have been a large number of patients who have experienced this issue during the onset of the condition.
The physical swelling in the abdomen that stems from the inflammation is responsible for the pressure around the appendix. This pressure makes the act of passing urine painful and uncomfortable.
So, if you experience pain during urination, accompanied by the other symptoms listed here, it is worth checking with your doctor if the issue is due to an inflamed appendix. In the case of appendicitis, it is better to diagnose the condition sooner rather than later.
When a case of appendicitis is identified, there are a couple of ways to treat it.
- In few cases, the condition gets better without surgery. A liquid diet and antibiotics are enough to heal the appendix.
- In a majority of the cases, surgery will be necessary, and the treatment depends on the specifics of the case.
Open appendectomy and laparoscopic appendectomy are two types of surgeries that are performed for appendicitis.
In both surgeries, the appendix is removed, and a cleanup of the abdominal cavity is performed. Recuperation post surgery depends on the patient’s health and the specifics of the condition.