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What Is Appendicitis?   

Appendicitis is a serious infection involving the appendix. This small, non-essential organ is connected to your large intestine, in the lower right side of your abdomen.

Appendicitis can be mild at first or acute (sudden and severe). If untreated, your appendix can burst, spreading infection into your abdomen (peritonitis) – a medical emergency.


The most common cause of appendicitis is blockage of the inner lining of the appendix by fecal material, undigested food or other foreign material .Sometimes the blockage is caused by local swelling of the appendix. The blockage traps bacteria in the appendix which can then lead to an infection – appendicitis.


Appendicitis symptoms often start with pain around the area of the belly button, that later migrates to the lower part of the abdomen, usually on the right side. Other symptoms include:

  • Abdominal swelling – An enlarged area that may feel painful when pressed

  • Fever – A low-grade fever that can get worse without treatment

  • Appetite loss – A reduced desire to eat

  • Nausea and vomiting – Stomach distress marked by an urge to vomit or by involuntary vomiting

  • Distention – Bloating or pressure caused by an inability to pass intestinal gas

  • Constipation or diarrhea – Abnormal bowel habits, such as infrequent, hard bowel movements (constipation) or frequent, fluid stools (diarrhea)

Treatment Options

Appendicitis symptoms may mimic other conditions, such as intestinal gas, gallstones, kidney stones or pelvic inflammatory disease. Prompt, expert evaluation is important. Diagnosis may include a physical exam, blood and urine samples, and an X-ray, CT scan or ultrasound.

Treatments may include:

  • Medication – You may receive oral (by mouth) or intravenous (IV) antibiotics.

  • Drainage – Doctors may place a tube to drain infected fluid and tissue.

  • Appendectomy – the most common treatment. This is a surgical removal of your appendix, performed either with a laparoscopic technique via three small incisions or, if that is not possible, with an open surgical technique performed via a single larger incision. After a day or two hospital stay, most people return to normal activities within a week.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of appendicitis, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat appendicitis.