Digestive System Home > Appendicitis

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix that occurs most often in people between the ages of 10 and 30. It is considered a medical emergency, and treatment often involves surgery to remove the appendix. If treatment is delayed, the appendix can burst, causing infection and even death. Possible symptoms of an inflamed appendix include abdominal pain, fever, and constipation.

What Is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. Once appendicitis begins, there is no effective medical therapy. Therefore, it is considered a medical emergency. When it is treated promptly, most patients recover without difficulty. However, if treatment is delayed, the appendix can burst, causing infection and even death. Although anyone can get appendicitis, it occurs most often in people between the ages of 10 and 30.
 

Understanding the Appendix

The appendix is a small, tube-like structure that is attached to the first part of the large intestine, also called the colon. It is located in the lower right portion of the abdomen, near where the small intestine attaches to the large intestine, and it has no known function. Removal of the appendix appears to cause no change in digestive function.
 

What Causes Appendicitis?

The inflammation can be caused by a blockage of the inside of the appendix, known as the lumen. Common causes of blockage include:
 
  • Feces
  • Infections that lead to swelling
  • Trauma.
     
(Click Causes of Appendicitis for more information about what causes this condition.)
 

Common Symptoms

Not everyone with appendicitis has related symptoms, especially:
 
Pain in the abdomen can be an early symptom. The pain may first appear around the belly button and then move to the lower right area of the abdomen.
 
(Click Early Appendicitis Symptoms for more information.)
 
Other common symptoms include:
 
  • Pain that intensifies when moving, taking deep breaths, coughing, or sneezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Low fever that begins after other symptoms
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Feeling that a bowel movement will relieve discomfort.
     
These symptoms can be caused by other medical conditions, however. People who have possible symptoms of appendicitis should see a qualified physician immediately.
 
(Click Appendicitis Symptoms for more information.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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