Skip to content
Dr QM Leong
Dr QM Leong

How Painful Is Appendicitis? 5 Things You Should Know

stomach ache

Appendicitis is a common medical condition when the appendix becomes inflamed and infected. The appendix is a small, finger-shaped organ located in the abdomen’s lower right side. When it becomes blocked, typically by faecal matter or a foreign object, bacteria can multiply, leading to inflammation and infection.

The inflammation can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. If you’re wondering how painful appendicitis is, it can be excruciating and typically requires immediate medical attention. This is to avoid serious complications such as rupturing of the appendix.

Common appendicitis symptoms like abdominal pain can manifest, but many people, especially children, often don’t exhibit such typical symptoms.

Nevertheless, this guide discusses early symptoms of appendicitis and warning signs to watch out for.

The following are common symptoms typically associated with appendicitis:

  • Severe abdominal pain: The most common symptom of appendicitis is abdominal pain that typically starts around the belly button and then moves to the lower right side of the abdomen. The sharp pain may worsen with movement, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Appendicitis can cause feelings of nausea and vomiting as the body attempts to expel the infection.
  • Loss of appetite: Individuals with appendicitis may experience a loss of appetite due to the pain and discomfort associated with the condition.
  • Constipation or diarrhoea: Some people with appendicitis may experience changes in bowel movements, such as constipation or diarrhoea.
  • Fever: A low-grade fever may occur as the body tries to fight off the infection.
  • Abdominal swelling: Severe cases of appendicitis can lead to a burst or ruptured appendix, causing the abdomen to swell and become tender to the touch.
  • Painful urination: In rare cases, appendicitis can cause pain and discomfort during urination. Without medical attention, bacteria from the appendix can invade the urinary tract, leading to a urinary tract infection.

The location and severity of pain associated with appendicitis may differ depending on various factors, including age and the appendix’s position. Children and teenagers often experience pain in the lower right side of the abdomen. 

In contrast, pregnant women may experience pain around the upper abdomen due to the appendix’s higher position during pregnancy.

Since the symptoms of appendicitis can be similar to those of other health conditions, it’s crucial to seek medical attention from a doctor to determine the exact cause.

2. Symptoms Of Appendicitis In Children

little girl having a stomach ache

If you suspect your child may be suffering from appendicitis, seeking immediate medical attention is essential.

Children may have difficulty describing their symptoms or pinpointing the location of the pain, making it challenging to diagnose appendicitis accurately.

Unfortunately, parents can easily mistake acute appendicitis for a stomach bug or UTI due to similar symptoms, leading to delayed treatment. However, it’s better to err on the side of caution regarding appendicitis since a ruptured appendix can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening, especially in infants and toddlers.

In young children aged two and below, symptoms of appendicitis can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdomen pain
  • Bloating or swelling of the abdominal cavity
  • Tender abdomen

Meanwhile, older children and teenagers are more likely to experience nausea, vomiting, and pain in the lower right side of the abdomen. Therefore, seeking medical attention immediately if your child exhibits any of these symptoms is crucial to ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment.

3. Symptoms Of Appendicitis In Pregnant Women

symptoms of appendicitis on a pregnant woman

Appendicitis in pregnant women can be particularly challenging to diagnose due to the overlap in symptoms with other common pregnancy ailments.

While the most common symptom of appendicitis is abdominal pain, it can be challenging to determine its location in pregnant women since the appendix can shift during pregnancy.

As a result, pregnant women with appendicitis may experience pain and discomfort in the upper abdomen rather than the lower right side.

Other symptoms of appendicitis in pregnant women may include nausea, vomiting, and a fever. However, these symptoms can also be associated with pregnancy complications, such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.

In addition to a painful abdomen, pregnant women with appendicitis may experience heartburn, gas, constipation, and diarrhoea episodes. These symptoms can delay diagnosis and appropriate treatment, which can be critical to avoid any potential complications.

Pregnant women need immediate medical attention if they experience any concerning symptoms to ensure timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

4. How Is Appendicitis Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of appendicitis involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. Here are the typical steps that doctors follow to diagnose appendicitis:

  • Medical history: The doctor will ask about the patient’s symptoms, when they started, and how severe they are.
  • Physical examination: The doctor will examine the patient’s abdomen to check for tenderness, swelling, or rigidity and look for any signs of inflammation or infection.
  • Blood tests: A complete blood count (CBC) can help detect signs of infection, such as an elevated white blood cell count.
  • Urine test: A urinalysis can help rule out other conditions, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI).
  • Imaging tests: An ultrasound or a CT scan of the abdomen can help visualise the appendix and identify any inflammation or fluid buildup.
  • Laparoscopy: In some cases, a surgeon may need to perform a laparoscopy, a minimally invasive procedure, to inspect the appendix and confirm the diagnosis visually.

It’s important to note that not all patients with appendicitis may require all of these tests, and the diagnostic approach may vary based on the individual patient’s situation.

5. How Is Appendicitis Treated?

appendicitis surgery

A medical emergency is required for severe cases of appendicitis, but treatment forms vary depending on the extent of the condition.

Below are ways doctors ensure a patient’s appendicitis is treated promptly:

  • Hospitalisation: The patient is typically admitted for treatment and close monitoring.
  • Antibiotics: In some cases, antibiotics may be given before surgery to treat any existing infection and reduce the risk of complications.
  • Surgery: An appendectomy can be performed through an open incision or a laparoscopic approach, depending on the individual case.
  • Recovery: After surgery, the patient will need to rest and recover, usually for a few days, before being discharged.

Follow-up: The patient must follow up with the doctor for postoperative care, including wound care and monitoring for any potential complications.

Conclusion On How Appendicitis Pain Feels

Appendicitis can be severe and debilitating, often requiring prompt medical attention. Understanding its symptoms and seeking medical care are critical for the successful management of this medical condition.

While the pain of appendicitis can vary from person to person, it is typically described as a sharp, stabbing pain often located in the lower right side of the abdomen.

Consult with Dr QM Leong a colorectal surgeon in Singapore, if you suspect you or a loved one is experiencing appendicitis. He will prescribe the proper treatment and conduct an appendectomy when necessary.

You can also visit his clinic at Mount Alvernia Medical Centre A. 

Clinic hours:

Mon – Fri:

8:30am – 12:30pm, 2pm – 5:00 pm

Saturday: 8:30am – 12:00pm

Sunday and Public Holidays: Closed

Frequently Asked Questions On How Appendicitis Pain Feels

Is Ruptured Appendix More Common In Adults Or Children?

Any patient with appendicitis can experience rupturing, but clinical studies have suggested it’s more common in children than adults. This is because they are unable to articulate their symptoms.

Is Appendicitis Pain Constant?

The pain of appendicitis can vary in intensity and may come and go, but it typically worsens over time. After several hours, the pain will travel to the lower right abdomen, becoming constant and severe if not treated promptly.

Can Appendicitis Be Diagnosed Without Surgery?

Yes. Appendicitis can be diagnosed through physical exams, blood tests, and imaging tests, but surgery is usually needed for a definitive diagnosis.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Appendicitis Surgery?

The recovery time from appendicitis surgery varies depending on the individual and the extent of the surgery performed. But generally, most people can return to normal activities a few weeks after the surgery. But it may take longer for the incision site to fully heal and the patient to regain their strength.