What is Appendicitis?

At the beginning of the colon or cecum is a small pouch called the appendix. Its location is on the lower right side of the abdomen. Appendicitis happens when the appendix becomes inflamed or swollen. If left untreated, the appendix can burst causing severe infection and even death.

While appendicitis can affect people of any age, it is most common among people 10 to 30 years of age.

Causes of Appendicitis

The cause of appendicitis is usually unknown. It may occur after a viral infection in the digestive tract or when the opening connecting the large intestine and appendix is blocked. The inflammation can cause infection, a blood clot, or rupture of the appendix. Because of the risk of rupture, appendicitis is considered an emergency. Anyone with symptoms needs to see a doctor immediately.


Signs and Symptoms of Appendicitis

  • pain in the right side of the abdomen
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • inability to pass gas
  • low fever that begins after other symptoms
  • abdominal swelling


The pain usually begins near the navel and moves down and to the right. The pain becomes worse when moving, taking deep breaths, coughing, sneezing, and being touched in the area.

Not everyone has all the symptoms. People with symptoms of appendicitis should not take laxatives or enemas to relieve constipation because these medicines could cause the appendix to burst. Pain medicine can mask symptoms that the doctor needs to know about, so it should not be prednisone used before consulting a doctor when appendicitis is suspected.


Appendicitis Diagnosis

The doctor bases an appendicitis diagnosis on symptoms, a physical exam, blood tests to check for signs of infection such as a high white blood cell count, and urine tests to rule out a urinary tract infection. Usually doctors use CT scan or ultrasound prednisone to see whether the appendix looks inflamed.


Appendicitis Treatment

If the diagnosis of appendicitis is not certain, people with equivocal signs of appendicitis may be watched and sometimes treated with antibiotics. People with definite appendicitis have surgery to remove the appendix, which is called an appendectomy. Doctors may use laparoscopic surgery for appendectomy. This technique involves making several tiny cuts in the abdomen and inserting a miniature camera and surgical instruments. The surgeon then removes the appendix with the instruments, so there is usually no need to make a large prednisone incision in the abdomen. People can live a normal life without their appendix–changes in diet, exercise, or other lifestyle factors are not necessary.


Additional Information on Appendicitis

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse collects resource information on digestive diseases for the Combined Health Information Database (CHID). CHID is a database produced by health-related agencies of the Federal Government. The CHID database located on the World Wide Web at, provides titles, abstracts, and availability information for health information and health education resources. See the results of our CHID research on ” Appendicitis,” June 16, 2004.