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Appendicitis: Not Just a Stomachache

Appendicitis:
Not Just a Stomachache



What is appendicitis?
How do you get appendicitis?
How do I know if I have appendicitis?
How can I find out if I have appendicitis?
What tests will my health professional do?
How do I get rid of appendicitis?
Can I get appendicitis again?


What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis is an infection of your appendix. Appendicitis is most common in the teen and early adult years. Boys are more likely than girls to get appendicitis. back to top

How do you get appendicitis?
Your appendix looks like a small tail at the front end of your large intestine. Bacteria can get trapped in the appendix and cause an infection. back to top

How do I know if I have appendicitis?
If you have appendicitis, you'll probably feel one or all of these things:
  • Belly pain. This is the most common symptom. The pain typically starts in the middle of your belly, near your belly button. Over time, it gets stronger and moves to the lower right part of your belly, directly over your appendix.
  • Lack of appetite. This is also a very common symptom. In fact, if you're hungry even though you have belly pain, you probably don't have appendicitis.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fever. The fever is usually low, from 99 to 100.5 degrees. But it's possible to have appendicitis without having a fever.
  • Difficulty with walking or being bothered by any kind of bumpy motion, like bouncing on your heels. back to top
How can I find out if I have appendicitis?
You should see your health professional if you think you might have appendicitis. He or she will examine you and do a few tests to figure out if you have appendicitis or some other problem. There are other serious conditions that can cause pain in your belly, and it's important to know which one you have so you can get the right treatment. Appendicitis can cause the same symptoms as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cysts, and stomach flu. back to top

What tests will my health professional do?
The most important thing your health professional will do is examine you. He or she can figure out a lot from pressing on your belly and doing a pelvic exam. A blood test can show if an infection is causing your pain. It won't be able to tell the difference between appendicitis and pelvic inflammatory disease, though.

An Ultrasound test can be very helpful in figuring out if what you have is appendicitis or some other problem. The ultrasound may show a swollen appendix or show that the pain is coming from another source.

Sometimes, even after an exam, blood tests, and an ultrasound, it's still hard to tell what's causing your pain. In that case, your health professional may recommend a laparoscopy to take a look inside your belly. Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure that must be done at a hospital by a doctor. back to top

How do I get rid of appendicitis?
If you get appendicitis, your appendix must be removed by surgery. Nowadays, the appendix is often removed in laparoscopy, which is done through two or three tiny incisions in your belly. With laparoscopy, you can usually go home the next day.

Sometimes it's better to remove the appendix the traditional way, through a small (3 to 4 inch wide) incision in the lower right part of your belly. It takes longer to recover from the traditional surgery. Usually you spend 3 days in the hospital, and then recover at home for 2 to 3 weeks. back to top

Can I get appendicitis again?
Once you've had your appendix removed, you can't get appendicitis again. If you've had your appendix out and you get the same kind of severe belly pain, see your health professional. She or he can do some tests to figure out what is causing your pain. back to top

 
 
 
Last Modified Date: 4/4/2001
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