The appendix is a 3- to 6-inch long pouch-like structure in the lower right side of the belly — usually where the large intestine connects to the small intestine. The appendix’s function is not entirely clear, though it may help the body fight infection. However, it’s not a necessary organ. Appendicitis is an inflamed or infected appendix.
Appendicitis is a medical emergency because the appendix can rupture and become life threatening. If you or someone you know has symptoms of appendicitis, go to the emergency room or call 9-1-1 immediately.
At Dignity Health, our expert emergency care team is here for you around the clock. You can trust us to provide personal care for appendicitis in the Bay Area.
What Cause Appendicitis?
Most cases of appendicitis happen when stool, mucus, or a foreign body becoming trapped inside the appendix and blocking the opening of the appendix into the colon. This causes the appendix to become inflamed, infected, or irritated. A ruptured appendix allows its contaminated contents to leak into the abdominal cavity, causing a severe infection called peritonitis.
Appendicitis is more common in young children, the elderly, and pregnant women.
You may not realize you have appendicitis until your appendix bursts. The main symptom of appendicitis is belly pain that starts near the bellybutton and spreads to the lower right side. Sometimes, the whole belly area is painful. The pain usually occurs suddenly, progresses rapidly, and worsens when you move, take a deep breath, cough, or sneeze.
Other signs and symptoms include:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Fever and chills
- Inability to pass gas
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
If you have symptoms of appendicitis, see your doctor immediately. Your doctor may order an imaging test, such as abdominal ultrasound or CT scan, to see if the appendix is swollen or a blood test to check for infection.
Treatment & Prevention of Appendicitis at Dignity Health
Your treatment and prevention options for appendicitis depend on whether or not your appendix has burst.
An inflamed appendix can rupture as soon as 48 to 72 hours after symptoms start. When it bursts, infection can spread throughout the belly and cause peritonitis, which is life Threatening. An appendectomy — surgery to remove the appendix — will prevent this complication.
Our emergency doctors, nurses, and other staff are highly trained in treating appendicitis in the Bay Area. Rely on our experts to provide the trusted care you need.
Dignity Health offers emergency care for a variety of conditions, including appendicitis, in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.