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Knowing When Abdominal Pain is Appendicitis

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If you have a sharp, building pain in your abdomen and you’re not sure why, it wouldn’t be outlandish to think it’s appendicitis. To the right or the left of your stomach, above or below -- appendicitis can pack its punch in any of these areas.

Keep in mind, though, that sharp abdominal pain can be due to a number of factors. The Mayo Clinic’s health information pages list several possibilities, including acid reflux, diverticulitis, endometriosis, kidney stones, intestinal obstruction, stomach flu and hernias.

It’s vital to work with your health care practitioner on a diagnosis. If it really is appendicitis, you need immediate medical care.

The center of attention in appendicitis is, strangely enough, a small, finger-shaped projection from your colon that has no known use in human anatomy. When it becomes inflamed and filled with pus, though, the appendix can take under a day to create a ruckus of pain that typically begins in your navel and shifts to your lower-right abdomen, as explained by the Mayo Clinic.

It’s not unusual to feel the pain build in other areas of your abdomen, especially if the patient is a child or is pregnant.

According to Mayoclinic.com, here are some possible symptoms of appendicitis:

- Aching pain that begins near your navel and shifts to the lower-right abdomen

- Pain that becomes sharper over several hours

- Tenderness when applying pressure to the lower-right abdomen

- Sharp pain when pressing that area and then quickly releasing (rebound tenderness)

Other GI symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation may occur.

The inflammation of the appendix could have come from fecal matter that got stuck in the wrong place, or from a gastrointestinal virus, even from another type of infection.

What you don’t want to happen is a ruptured appendix, because it can lead to an abscess and worse yet, an infection of the abdominal cavity, known as peritonitis.

So take care of sharp abdominal pain with a visit to the doctor or emergency room, where a physical exam, blood or urine tests and an ultrasound or CT scan can determine whether or not it’s appendicitis.

If so, the usual recourse is an appendectomy -- removing that appendix either through open surgery or a laparoscopic procedure. The key is to get to it before it bursts and spreads the infection.

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, appendicitis leads to more emergency abdominal surgeries than any other ailment. Another interesting fact is that even though anyone can be hit with appendicitis, it is more common among those between the ages of 10 and 30.

So pay attention to abdominal pain. Even if it’s not appendicitis, it’s good to get a handle on its causes and symptoms for the sake of family members and friends.


“Abdominal pain: Causes.” Mayo Clinic Health Information. Web. 5 Sept. 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/abdominal-pain/MY00390/DSECTION=causes

“Appendicitis.” National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Web. 5 Sept. 2011.

“Appendicitis.” Mayo Clinic Health Information. Web. 5 Sept. 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/appendicitis/DS00274

Reviewed September 6, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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