Appendicitis is a common condition that occurs when something blocks part of the appendix, causing an increase in internal pressure, bacterial growth, and a decrease in blood supply. Severe causes of appendicitis culminate in tissue death and the small sac eventually bursting. Anyone who experiences signs of appendicitis should see a doctor immediately; a burst appendix can cause many dangerous complications.
An Ache Around the Belly Button
The earliest sign of appendicitis is often an ache in the vicinity of the belly button. This sensation occurs because the navel sits at the same level as the connection of appendix nerves and spinal cord. The ache is often very intense, and sudden movement may make it worse.
Abdominal Pain that Intensifies Over Time
From the belly button area, the pain usually moves down to the lower right part of the abdomen. This happens when the swelling increases, causing the appendix to irritate the abdominal wall. The pain then gets worse, sometimes to the point where sleep or regular daily actions become impossible. It is not likely an individual will ignore the pain as it continues to intensify, but it is ideal to see a doctor as soon as the ache begins. Early detection and treatment reduce the risk of complications.
Fever and Chills
The symptoms of appendicitis can be similar to those of other infections, including fever and chills. In early appendicitis, the fever is usually low grade, under 100.4 degrees. A fever higher than this raises suspicions that the appendix has ruptured, a life-threatening situation that needs immediate evaluation and treatment.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of appendicitis, though some people experience only the former. Pay attention to when you start feeling sick. If nausea comes before the pain, it is probably not the appendix. Regardless, severe abdominal pain or persistent vomiting needs immediate evaluation.
Loss of Appetite
Most people with appendicitis also lose their appetite. This is usually a natural response to the pain and discomfort. If you continue to feel hungry and want to eat, it is unlikely appendicitis is the cause of the symptoms.
Chronic constipation may be a cause or symptom of appendicitis, although doctors are not sure why. It could be due to increased irritation in the digestive system, which can spread to the appendix. A person with chronic constipation will likely continue to experience it. Others may develop constipation after other symptoms set in. It is best to avoid laxatives and enemas when dealing with constipation that could be appendicitis; they could cause the appendix to rupture.
Loose Bowel Movements
Diarrhea is a less common symptom of appendicitis, but roughly one in five people with the infection develop it. Young children are more likely to have loose stools, usually starting after the pain begins. The stool is watery and tends to have a lot of mucus in it. If diarrhea occurs along with other signs of appendicitis, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Some people with appendicitis experience excessive gas or, alternatively, difficulty passing gas. However, there are many reasons for this symptom. It only becomes a possible sign of appendicitis when other common symptoms are also present.
Not everyone who gets appendicitis experiences bloating, but it is a common secondary symptom among those who develop excessive gas. The sensation may be confused with feelings of fullness, though it is unlikely the individual has eaten enough to feel over-full. The abdomen may appear full or puffed out.
Anyone who is concerned their symptoms may indicate appendicitis can place a hand against their lower abdomen and apply gentle pressure to the area. If pain is felt when the pressure is released, called rebound tenderness, the appendix could be inflamed. If this occurs, do not continue pressing the area. Instead, see a doctor immediately.