3 Warning Signs Your Stomach Pain Is Actually Appendicitis

Is it a stomach ache or potentially life-threatening appendicitis? Here’s how to tell.

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A shooting pain in your stomach wakes you up in the middle of the night like a nightmare. You decide to sleep it off, and jump back into dreamland. But as soon your head hits the pillow, you notice the pain is getting worse. It hurts to move and you start to feel a bit nauseous. Whoa. What’s going on? This isn’t just a bad dream. It’s appendicitis—and you need to call your doctor stat.

We’ve all had stomach pain, like trapped gas, constipation, and indigestion, which usually go away on their own. Appendicitis, however, is when your appendix (a small, tube-like organ attached to the large intestine) becomes inflamed. If it’s not treated ASAP, it can lead to complications and cause your appendix to burst, which is life threatening.

Symptoms of appendicitis can mimic other stomach conditions. That’s why it’s crucial to know the key differences so you can get medical attention right away if it hits—your life may depend on it. Here’s how to tell if your stomach pain is actually appendicitis.

1. Your stomach hurts more than it ever has before. Appendicitis causes severe, unfamiliar abdominal pain, that usually starts near the belly button and moves to the lower right.

2. Your stomach pains come on fast and get worse. Appendicitis usually strikes suddenly—it may even wake you from your sleep. It gets worse in a matter of hours and also when you move, cough, or sneeze.

3. You have symptoms besides the stomach pain. Appendicitis can cause other symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal swelling. These may come on after you feel the stomach pain.

If you suspect appendicitis, don’t brush it off. Call your doctor immediately.