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The appendix is a small, tube-like organ that hangs from the large intestine. Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix. The appendix has no known function.
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Appendicitis usually occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed. This can be caused by something trapped in the appendix, such as:
  • A piece of dried stool
  • A piece of food
  • Tumors
  • Scar tissue
  • Worms
  • Barium after an exam
  • Overgrowth of the lymph tissue of the appendix
The lining of the appendix continues to produce mucus. It has no place to go. Bacteria normally found in the intestines build up and make toxins in the lining of the appendix. Pressure builds and causes severe pain in the abdomen. The wall of the appendix can break open. The contents of a ruptured appendix can spill into the abdominal cavity. This causes serious redness and swelling. This is called peritonitis . It can be fatal.

Risk Factors

Appendicitis is more common in men and teenagers.You are at increased risk of developing appendicitis if you have family members who have had appendicitis.


Symptoms usually happen quickly. Pain usually increases during a 6-12 hour period. Patients may have some or all of the following symptoms:
  • Pain
    • Starts as discomfort around the belly button
    • Usually moves to the right side of the abdomen over several hours
    • May be in a different location if the appendix is not in the usual place
    • Increases as redness and swelling in the appendix builds
    • Worsens with sneezing, coughing, and deep breathing
    • May increase with movement
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Abdomen feels hard and is sensitive to touch
  • Constipation
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Slight fever
If the appendix ruptures, symptoms include:
  • Pain becoming stronger and spreading across the abdomen
  • Increasing fever
Note: Symptoms may be different in infants, children, pregnant women, and the elderly.

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