Learn more about the symptoms of severe stomach pain

Appendicitis Warning Signs: Watch for These Key Symptoms

Anyone who has ever felt a twinge in their right side has probably wondered if it’s a symptom of appendicitis. Fortunately, mild discomfort like this is usually just gas or another minor ailment. But in some cases, abdominal pain can be a sign that your appendix — the tube of tissue at the end of your large intestine — may be in trouble.

What Is Acute Appendicitis?

In the simplest terms, acute appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix, a finger-shaped pouch on the right side of your lower abdomen that appears to have no purpose or function.

Acute appendicitis typically occurs when a blockage in the appendix’s lining causes a bacterial infection, which in turn leads to inflammation. Left untreated, the appendix can rupture, spreading bacteria throughout the abdomen—a medical emergency that can be life threatening. Anyone can develop acute appendicitis, but it’s most common in younger people between ages 10 and 30.

Symptoms of Acute Appendicitis

Despite the seriousness of this problem, symptoms of appendicitis usually start out fairly mild. Over time, they can become severe. Watch for symptoms such as:

  • Sudden pain that starts near your bellybutton and shifts to your lower right abdomen
  • Pain that gets worse when you take deep breaths, cough, or sneeze
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever

Because such symptoms can also be signs of many other gastrointestinal problems — from gas to a stomach bug to chronic conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease — it’s important to pay attention to your general health so you notice any changes.

Find an emergency room or urgent care facility near you with UPMC CareFinder.

Appendicitis Pain or Something Else?

What tends to make appendicitis-related pain different from other types of abdominal pain include:

  • It occurs suddenly
  • It gets worse over the course of just a few hours
  • It occurs before other symptoms, like bloating or nausea
  • It can be described as different from other pain you’ve experienced

If you suspect you or a loved one may be experiencing acute appendicitis, seek medical attention immediately. Treatment usually involves minimally invasive surgical removal of the appendix and a course of antibiotics to treat infection.