5 Signs Of Appendicitis That Aren’t Abdominal Pain

The targeted pain usually associated with appendicitis only shows up in half of people with the condition.

May 11, 2017
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Appendicitis is one of those health conditions you think you'll be able to spot. An inflammation of your appendix—the small worm-like tissue that's attached to your large intestine—is typically associated with that lower-right-side-of-your-stomach, make-you-want-to-curl-up-in-agony pain, right?

Sort of. "The classic story you hear with appendicitis is what we call periumbilical pain—it's pain near the belly button which then gradually moves to the right-lower quadrant where the appendix is located," says Daniel Herron, MD, division chief of the department of surgery at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "Pain is far and away the most common symptom of appendicitis." (So, unfortunately, that whole agony part could be likely.)

But the targeted pain on the right side of your stomach? It only shows up in about half of people with appendicitis, Herron says.

So, look out for these 5 symptoms, too—and head to the doc if you're in pain. "The earlier you can identify appendicitis, the easier it is to treat," says Herron. "Although classically the teaching has been that all appendicitis goes to the operating room, there is an increasing interest in treating early appendicitis with antibiotics, so sometimes you can avoid an operation if you are early in catching it."

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Your appetite goes out the window

If breakfast is your jam and suddenly you're not hungry at all (at breakfast, lunch, or dinner), your belly could be telling you something. "Generally, patients with appendicitis lose their appetite," says Herron. "That's a very common thing." In fact, anorexia—the medical term for a lack or loss of appetite—is present in about 74-78% of patients

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You're vomiting

If you're nauseous, it's not rare to also start throwing up, too, says Herron. Pay attention to the timing of when you get sick. With appendicitis, if you have a puking spell, it almost always follows the pain.

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You're constipated—or you have diarrhea

Notice loose stools or can't seem to go at all? "Anything that causes infection or inflammation in the GI tract will interfere with normal digestion," says Herron. That's why many patients suffering from appendicitis come in with complaints about how often and how easily they go. Thanks to all of the GI irritation, other symptoms of indigestion—like bloating or pain—could also pop up, Herron says. (Here are 7 things your poop can say about you and your health.)

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You might have a fever

A fever can be your body's way of telling you something is up. In the case of appendicitis, though, it could be a sign it's time to take action and head to the hospital. "By the time you would get a fever with appendicitis, it would be later on in the progression of the disease," Herron says. Look out for something low-grade—99 to 101 degrees, he says. And know: "Absence of a fever would not rule out appendicitis."

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Something just feels off

Herron says that beyond the stomach woes and tummy troubles, patients with appendicitis tend to all report a similar feeling of malaise. He says: "'I just didn't feel right,' or 'something was off,' are common complaints." After all, you're the only one who knows exactly how your body feels day in and day out—so if something seems wrong, see your doctor. (Here are 10 symptoms that warrant a trip to the ER.) An inflamed appendix that's not treated can eventually burst, which, in a worst-case scenario can be fatal.

Related: The 4 Numbers You Need To Know For Heart Health

The article 5 Signs Of Appendicitis That Aren’t Abdominal Pain originally appeared on Prevention.