Appendicitis: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Related Symptoms & Signs

Abdominal pain is the main symptom of appendicitis. The pain starts out as diffuse, meaning it is difficult to localize the area of pain. Most people say the initial pain of appendicitis occurs around the middle portion of the abdomen. As the inflammation of the appendix progresses, the pain becomes localized to one area. Once the peritoneum (lining tissue of the abdomen) is inflamed, the pain of appendicitis is characteristically located at a point between the navel and the front of the right hip bone. Anatomically, this is referred to as McBurney's point.

Another frequent symptom of appendicitis is loss of appetite. Over time, this can worsen, resulting in nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms that can occur are swelling of the abdomen, the inability to pass gas, constipation or diarrhea with gas, and a mild to moderate fever.

Some people with appendicitis have atypical symptoms. They may not have the classic pain localized in the lower right abdomen. Sometimes, affected people report experiencing rectal or back pain. Painful urination has also been reported. The nausea and vomiting may precede the onset of abdominal pain in certain cases.

Causes of appendicitis

The cause of appendicitis is believed to be an infection of the wall of the appendix that begins with blockage (by stool, cancer, or foreign body) of the opening from the appendix into the cecum of the large intestine. At other times, the lymphatic (immune response) tissues in the appendix swell and block the opening. When the blockage occurs, bacteria that are normally found within the appendix begin to grow and infect the wall of the appendix, leading to inflammation.


Craig, Sandy. "Appendicitis." Jan. 19, 2017. <>.

United States. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. "Appendicitis." <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/14/2017
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