Symptoms & Causes of Appendicitis

What are the symptoms of appendicitis?

The most common symptom of appendicitis is pain in your abdomen.

If you have appendicitis, you’ll most often have pain in your abdomen that

  • begins near your belly button and then moves lower and to your right
  • gets worse in a matter of hours
  • gets worse when you move around, take deep breaths, cough, or sneeze
  • is severe and often described as different from any pain you’ve felt before
  • occurs suddenly and may even wake you up if you’re sleeping
  • occurs before other symptoms

Other symptoms of appendicitis may include

  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • an inability to pass gas
  • a low-grade fever
  • swelling in your abdomen
  • the feeling that having a bowel movement will relieve discomfort

Symptoms can be different for each person and can seem like the following conditions that also cause pain in the abdomen:

What causes appendicitis?

Appendicitis can have more than one cause, and in many cases the cause is not clear. Possible causes include:

  • Blockage of the opening inside the appendix
  • enlarged tissue in the wall of your appendix, caused by infection in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or elsewhere in your body
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • stool, parasites, or growths that can clog your appendiceal lumen
  • trauma to your abdomen

When should I seek a doctor's help?

Appendicitis is a medical emergency that requires immediate care. See a health care professional or go to the emergency room right away if you think you or a child has appendicitis. A doctor can help treat the appendicitis and reduce symptoms and the chance of complications.

Last Reviewed November 2014

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.