What Is Appendicitis?

Outline of abdomen showing small intestine and colon.

Maybe your side hurt so much that you called your healthcare provider. 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.

Your appendix

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

Symptoms of appendicitis

Symptoms tend to appear quickly, often over 1 to 2 days. 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

Medicine can’t cure appendicitis. Surgery is needed to remove an infected appendix. This is called 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.