10 Symptoms of Appendicitis to Watch Out For

Killer cramps? It could be appendicitis… Nearly 1 in 15 of us will fall victim to an attack on our appendix at some point in our lives. And while appendicitis occurs most commonly between the ages of 10 and 30, the fact is this potentially life-threatening condition has the ability to strike at almost any age.

With many of its symptoms similar to those of the flu and various other ‘not-so-serious’ complaints, appendicitis can be a tricky illness to diagnose. But if left untreated, it can lead to a ruptured appendix and a whole lot of hurt from some pretty serious infections.

When Friend Becomes Foe

In the human body, where even the smallest cell has the most incredibly important job to do, it’s unusual to find something as pointless as the appendix. Research shows that this tiny, finger-shaped organ in the intestinal area seems to serve no purpose whatsoever, and is little more than an evolutionary leftover.

But some scientists believe that when we’re very young, our appendix may help our immune system fight off infection. So it’s rather ironic that, as we get older, not only does this minor appendage stop helping to ward off disease, it can actually end up becoming a major cause of it. Appendicitis is the most common of all medical emergencies, and it turns out to be fatal in many cases.

marina_ua / Shutterstock.com
marina_ua / Shutterstock.com

So What’s the Big Emergency?

The tube-like sac that is your appendix is not only attached to your colon, it actually opens directly into the lower end of your large intestine. This means that when an inflamed appendix leaks or bursts, fecal matter and all manner of other nasty stuff fans out into the surrounding area, causing infection throughout the abdominal cavity.

This advanced condition is known as peritonitis, and it’s extremely dangerous. When it happens, the appendix has to be surgically removed, and the abdomen cleaned out and treated with antibiotics. A leaky appendix can also cause an abscess, or tiny pocket of infection, to form in the abdomen. This inflamed region will need to be drained quickly to prevent further spread of the infection, and the renegade appendix will, once again, have to be removed.

Because it’s pretty much guaranteed that, if left alone, an infected appendix will eventually either leak or burst, removing it before this can happen generally results in far fewer potentially life-threatening complications. And that’s why it’s crucial that you never turn a blind eye to what could be a possible appendicitis attack.

staras / Shutterstock.com
staras / Shutterstock.com

Lower Abdominal Pain

First and foremost, appendicitis tends to cause intense abdominal pain. More specifically, it causes quite sudden pain in the lower right abdominal area. The reason for the pain is the fact that your appendix has become infected, but the reason for the infection isn’t always so straightforward. Most of the time, it involves a blockage of some sort.

Regardless of the cause however, once bacteria have taken over the infected area and begun to generate quantities of pus, the tiny and virtually useless appendix will suddenly make its presence known in a very big way by becoming swollen, inflamed and intensely painful. Sometimes appendicitis pain will show up around your belly button first, before migrating to your lower abdomen, so don’t be fooled by this sleight-of-hand.

phugunfire / Shutterstock.com
phugunfire / Shutterstock.com
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