Appendicitis is a medical emergency that happens when your appendix becomes sore, swollen, and diseased.
The appendix is a thin tube that is joined to the large intestine. It sits in the lower right part of your belly (abdomen). When you are a young child, your appendix is a working part of your immune system. The immune system helps your body to fight disease. When you are older, your appendix stops doing this. Other parts of your body keep helping to fight infection.
The appendix does not keep working when you are older, but it can get infected. If not treated it can burst (rupture). This is serious and can lead to more infection and even death.
Appendicitis happens when the inside of your appendix is blocked by something that makes it swell up. If you have appendicitis, there is a serious risk your appendix may burst. This can happen as soon as 48 to 72 hours after you have symptoms. Because of this, appendicitis is a medical emergency. If you have symptoms, see a doctor right away.
Appendicitis may be caused by various infections such as virus, bacteria, or parasites, in your digestive tract. Or it may happen when the tube that joins your large intestine and appendix is blocked or trapped by stool. Sometimes tumors can cause appendicitis.
The appendix then becomes sore and swollen. The blood supply to the appendix stops as the swelling and soreness get worse. All of your body parts need the right amount of blood flow to stay healthy.
Without enough blood flow, the appendix starts to die. The appendix will burst as its walls start to get holes. These holes let stool, mucus, and other things leak through and get inside the belly. You may get peritonitis. This is a serious infection in the belly that happens when the appendix has a hole.
The following are common symptoms of appendicitis. Your own symptoms may vary.
Pain in the abdomen is the most common symptom. This pain:
Other common symptoms include:
Do not take pain medicines. They may hide other symptoms your healthcare provider needs to know about.
Appendicitis symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your past health and do a physical exam. He or she may also have you take the following tests:
You may also have some imaging tests, including:
The appendix may be removed in an open procedure or using laparoscopy:
If your appendix has not burst then your recovery from an appendectomy will only take a few days. If your appendix has burst, your recovery time will be longer and you will need antibiotic medicine.
You can live a normal life without your appendix. Changes in diet or exercise are usually not needed.
Appendicitis is when your appendix becomes sore, swollen, and diseased.
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200