The most common symptom of acute appendicitis is intense pain in the left lower abdomen, near the left hip bone.
Pain associated with appendicitis can also start out as a mild, diffuse pain around the belly-button with no specific location. Within a few hours, however, that pain can move and becomes more localized to where the appendix is found (in the left lower abdomen).
In addition to pain, other classic symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Difficulty passing gas
- Nausea or vomiting
- Low-grade fever
One way to assess for appendicitis is to apply light pressure over the painful area and releasing it quickly. If the pain becomes more intense after releasing, this could indicate appendicitis and you should proceed to the emergency room immediately. Several tests may be ordered, including an ultrasound, to confirm if there is an abnormality in the appendix.
Online quiz for appendicitis symptoms
If you think you may have appendicitis, report your symptoms below to assess your risk:
Symptoms of appendicitis in babies and children
Appendicitis rarely occurs in babies, but when it does, symptoms like a stomach ache, fever or vomiting can emerge. In some cases, you may also notice swelling in the belly or extreme sensitivity to palpation of the belly that results in the baby crying.
In children, symptoms will develop much quicker than in adults. There is a higher risk for rupture of the appendix due to the fragility of the abdominal lining.
Therefore, if appendicitis is suspected, proceed immediately to the emergency room, so that a diagnosis can be confirmed and indicated treatment can be started promptly.
Symptoms of appendicitis in pregnant women
Symptoms can emerge at any moment during pregnancy, but most frequently occur in the first or second trimester.
In pregnant women, symptoms will be very similar to the ones mentioned above (e.g. pain in the lower right abdomen). However, at the end of pregnancy, symptoms can be less specific due to the displacement of the appendix by the fetus. Pain can be confused with contractions or pregnancy-related discomfort, which can complicate the diagnosis and delay treatment.
Symptoms of chronic appendicitis
Although acute appendicitis is more common, chronic appendicitis can occur in some people. The pain in chronic appendicitis is typically more diffuse, but it can be slightly stronger on the left side of the belly or in the lower abdomen. This pain can last for months to years, until the correct diagnosis is made.
When to see a doctor
You should proceed immediately to the emergency room if you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms, especially if any of these symptoms emerge hours later:
- Increasing abdominal pain
- Fever over 38ºC (or 100.4ºF)
- Chills or tremors
- Difficulty pooping or passing gas
These symptoms can indicate that the appendix has already ruptured and that fecal matter has spread within the abdomen, which can lead to a serious infection.