Young women's version of this guide
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

Stomach painWhat is the appendix?

The appendix is a small (finger size), tube-shaped piece of tissue. The inside forms a pouch which opens into the beginning of the large intestine. The appendix is located in the lower right side of the abdomen (belly area).appendix2

What causes appendicitis?

Appendicitis happens when the inside of the appendix becomes blocked by a hard piece of stool (bowel movement), swelling from an infection, or rarely, a tumor. Irritation and swelling from the blockage lead to a lack of blood flow, and then the appendix starts to die. Bacteria then multiply and start to attack the appendix. If the appendix isn’t removed, it’s possible that it may rupture (or burst open), which can cause a serious infection.

What are the symptoms of appendicitis?

Some of the most common symptoms of appendicitis include:

  • Bad pain in the lower right side of the abdomen (some people may first feel the pain near their belly button)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever

These symptoms may also be present:

  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Passing a lot of gas

If you’re having bad pain, it’s important to contact your health care provider right away so he or she can determine what’s causing it. If you have appendicitis, you’ll need treatment as soon as possible.

Is there a test for appendicitis?

Although there’s not one “test” for appendicitis, your health care provider will be able to suspect that you may have it. He or she will likely ask you about your symptoms, touch the lower right side of your abdomen, and may perform blood tests or take images by an ultrasound or CT.

Is there a treatment for appendicitis?

Yes. If you have appendicitis you’ll need to have treatment as soon as possible. This is because the longer a person waits for treatment, the more likely their appendix is to burst. The way that appendicitis is treated is through an operation called an appendectomy.

What happens during an appendectomy?

To have your appendix removed, you’ll need to go to the hospital. First you will be given anesthesia, which is the medicine that will put you into a deep sleep and prevent you from feeling any pain during the operation. Then the surgeon will remove your appendix.

What happens after an appendectomy?

After your appendectomy, you’ll have to stay in the hospital for a few days, but the length of time depends on whether your appendix burst before you had surgery. If your appendix did not rupture before your surgery, you’ll likely have to stay in the hospital for 1-3 days. If your appendix did rupture before your surgery, your stay will likely be a bit longer.

Am I going to be ok without an appendix?

Yes. Living without an appendix will not cause any problems. However, it’s important to avoid gym class, sports, and strenuous activity for 2-4 weeks after your surgery.

If you’re concerned about appendicitis, here’s a tip on how to bring it up with your health care provider: I have really bad pain on the right side of my stomach, should I come in to your office?