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Watch Out for These Hallmark Signs and Symptoms of Appendicitis

Story at-a-glance

  • There are some people whose appendix lies behind their colon — if this is the case, the pain can manifest as lower back pain or pelvic pain
  • Your doctor will check for rebound tenderness, abdominal rigidity and stiffening of your abdominal muscles as a response to applying pressure over the inflamed appendix

Appendicitis is an acute condition that can manifest without warning. Suddenly, you experience a bout of symptoms, particularly pain, which can quickly transition from mild to extremely debilitating. But how exactly do you set appendicitis apart from other abdominal or digestion-related ailments? Here's how to tell if you have appendicitis.

Where Does Appendicitis Hurt?

If you talk to people who had appendicitis before, chances are they'll tell you that the pain is the most unforgettable symptom that they experienced. It starts as a gradual onset of dull, cramping or aching pain in the middle of the abdomen, near the bellybutton. Movement also tends to worsen it — simple acts like coughing, sneezing, moving the legs or abdomen or even a bumpy car ride can lead to extreme suffering.1

But unlike the abdominal pain that comes with other ailments, the pain transfers. The appendicitis pain location moves from the center of the abdomen to the lower right part, and becomes more localized and sharp. This is because as the appendix becomes more inflamed and swollen, the lining of the abdominal wall, known as the peritoneum, becomes irritated.2

Once the pain moves to this section of the body, which happens in only a span of a few hours, it becomes more constant and severe. Patients say that it is "unlike any pain that they have experienced," and is often so excruciating that it wakes them up at night.3,4

In some people, appendicitis pain occurs in other areas of the abdomen. For example, pregnant women might experience the pain in the upper right portion of their abdomen, as their appendix changes position to accommodate the growing infant. There are some people whose appendix lies behind their colon — if this is the case, the pain can manifest as lower back pain or pelvic pain.5

Other Signs of Appendicitis to Watch Out For

After the pain manifests, the other symptoms of this ailment arises. These can vary from person to person, depending on the severity or progression of the illness. If you have any of these symptoms, along with the hallmark appendicitis pain, consult your physician immediately:

Getting a Proper Appendicitis Diagnosis

Appendicitis can sometimes be tricky to diagnose. This is because only half of all patients have all the typical symptoms. If you experience intense abdominal pain along with the other hallmark signs, your doctor will then conduct several tests to confirm your diagnosis, including:


Appendicitis: Introduction

What is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis in Children

Appendicitis During Pregnancy

Appendicitis Duration

Appendicitis Causes

Types of Appendicitis

Appendicitis Symptoms

Appendicitis Prevention

Appendicitis Treatment

Appendicitis Diet

Appendicitis FAQ

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Sources and References

  • 1, 4 Health, 9 Symptoms of Appendicitis
  • 2, 5 Healthline, Emergency Signs and Symptoms of Appendicitis, April 18, 2016
  • 3, Appendicitis, March 1, 2016
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