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What Is Appendicitis?

Cutaway view of appendix and abdominal organs.

Your side may hurt so much that you called your doctor. Or maybe you went straight to the hospital emergency room. If the symptoms came on quickly, you may have appendicitis. This is an infection of the appendix. Surgery can remove  the infection and relieve your symptoms. Read on to learn more.

Cutaway view of appendix and colon.
A normal appendix

Your Appendix

The appendix is a hollow structure about the size of your little finger. It opens off the colon (large intestine). The purpose of the appendix is unclear. But if it becomes blocked, it may become infected.

Image of an inflamed appendix.
An inflamed appendix

Pain and Other Symptoms

Symptoms tend to appear quickly, often over a day or two. Symptoms can include:

  • Pain that starts in the center of your belly and moves to your lower right side

  • Increased pain and pressure on your side when you walk

  • Vomiting, nausea, or decreased appetite

  • Fever or fatigue

  • Either diarrhea or constipation

How Surgery Helps

Medication can’t cure appendicitis. Surgery is needed to remove an infected appendix (an appendectomy). This is a very common procedure. Removing the appendix should not affect your long-term health. It’s best to remove the appendix before it bursts. If an infected or burst appendix is not removed, it can cause severe health problems.

Online Medical Reviewer: Kolbus, Karin, RNH, DNP, COHN-S
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 3/14/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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