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Symptoms and Signs of Appendicitis

Doctor's Notes on Appendicitis

Appendicitis is inflammation or infection of the appendix, a narrow tubular pouch, about 3 to 4 inches long, extending from the large intestine in the lower right abdomen. Signs and symptoms of appendicitis are usually progressive with vague dull pain beginning in the middle of the abdomen near the naval or bellybutton. Over the next approximate 24-48 hours, abdominal pain may be accompanied with nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite and/or fever; pain may progress from dull to sharp. Constipation or diarrhea may develop. The right lower abdomen often becomes painful especially when hand pressure is placed over the appendix. Not all patients with appendicitis will show every symptom or sign. In some individuals, the pain is very intense due to infection and inflammation; the appendix may swell and then rupture with a sharp decrease in pain but this is a bad sign because it means peritonitis is likely to develop.

When the opening of the appendix is blocked, it is the cause of appendicitis. Causes that can block the opening of the appendix include fecal matter, foreign bodies, inflammation and swelling from viral, bacterial and/or parasitic infections.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.