Appendicitis Or Gas? Symptoms, Causes, Complications & More In 2023
We all occasionally experience pain in the abdomen, and sometimes, that pain becomes so intense we start to wonder if something is more serious than being gassy. More worrying scenarios like appendicitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, or other intestinal disorders start coming to mind.
We’re here to help you navigate whether you’re likely experiencing just gas or a more severe disorder such as appendicitis. While initially appendicitis can feel like trapped gas, there are signs and symptoms of appendicitis that should prompt you to seek out the expertise of a medical professional. For regular gas pain, you may need to clear out the bowel quickly to get rid of the gas, which you can often do at home. So, without further ado, let’s dive into answering whether you have gas pains or appendicitis!
Gas Or Appendicitis?
Symptoms that point more to appendicitis include pain that often starts near the belly button and then moves to the lower right side, sharp, intense, and persistent pain, possible nausea and vomiting, lack of an appetite, a low grade fever, and significant tenderness when pressure is applied to the abdomen. Gas pain typically presents as mild to moderate abdominal pain that is short in duration.
To definitely rule out whether you have gas or appendicitis, you’ll need to be evaluated by a medical professional.
Appendicitis Or Gas?
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Gas symptoms and appendicitis may present with similar symptoms such as abdominal pain, but some distinguishing features of appendicitis will help you tell the difference. Remember that appendicitis is a medical emergency, and if you have any suspicions that you may be experiencing appendicitis rather than regular gas pain, you should consult a medical professional immediately.
Gas pain from the inability to pass gas tends to be more diffuse or spread out in nature, while appendicitis pain typically presents as severe pain in the lower right side of the abdomen. Sometimes, with appendicitis pain, the severe abdominal pain starts around the belly button and then moves to the lower right side.
Furthermore, acute appendicitis is also typically accompanied by a low-grade fever, especially if the appendix has already ruptured. Other appendicitis symptoms include having no appetite, and the thought of eating food causes nausea. Another distinguishing sign of appendicitis is extreme abdominal tenderness, even to light touch.
The causes of appendicitis and gas also vary. Appendicitis is mostly commonly caused by obstruction, such as fecal matter, an enlarged lymph node, or foreign bodies, such as seeds. Other causes of appendicitis include gastrointestinal infections. The age group in which appendicitis most often occurs is between 10 and 30 years old.
Conversely, intestinal gas can occur at any age. There are many reasons for gas, including one of the most common causes: swallowing air when eating and drinking. Other factors that may lead to excess gas formation in the intestine include:
- Digestive disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), lactose intolerance, and celiac disease.
- Certain medications, such as antibiotics and certain pain-relieving medications.
- Stress and anxiety.
- Gastrointestinal infections.
- Eating gas-promoting foods.
When appendicitis is left untreated, there are a host of complications that may occur, including rupture of the appendix, abscess formation, formation of scar tissues and adhesions, and sepsis. As you can see, the complications can be severe, so immediate medical care is necessary if you suspect appendicitis.
Complications of intestinal gas formation in the abdominal cavity tend to be much less severe, with the most common complication being excessive gas being abdominal discomfort and pain. Other common complications include flatulence and belching. Less commonly, malabsorption of food nutrients can occur.
Once your medical provider has diagnosed appendicitis, the most common treatment you’re likely to be recommended is surgery to remove the appendix also known as an appendectomy. Commonly, the surgery to remove the appendix is performed using minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery to remove the appendix involves making a small incision in which specialized instruments are inserted to remove the appendix.
There are a multitude of ways to go about eliminating intestinal gas, including avoiding gas-producing foods and beverages, eating slower so there is less air swallowed, and using over-the-counter medications, which commonly contain simethicone, an ingredient that helps break down gas bubbles in the digestive tract. There are methods that you can use to get rid of bloating from the comfort of your own home.
When To See A Doctor
If the abdominal pain you are experiencing is more than mild to moderate in severity or lasts more than a couple of hours, you may want to seek a medical evaluation. Additionally, abdominal pain that often starts near the belly button and then moves to the lower right side. This pain is also typically sharp, intense, and persistent and may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Individuals with abdominal pain may also experience a lack of appetite, a low-grade fever, and significant tenderness when pressure is applied to the abdomen. The latter symptoms are characteristic of a more serious condition such as appendicitis.
Let’s summarize what we have discussed in this article. When figuring out whether you are dealing with trapped gas or appendicitis, it’s important to take the severity, duration of the pain, and other symptoms you may be experiencing into account. Trapped gas typically only causes mild to moderate abdominal pain and is short-lived in duration.
Appendicitis tends to be more severe pain, has a longer duration, and has other symptoms such as fever, pain that eventually localizes in the right lower abdomen, nausea or vomiting, and significant tenderness when pressure is applied to the abdomen.
Obstructions, such as fecal matter, an enlarged lymph node, or a foreign body, such as seeds, most commonly cause appendicitis. Intestinal gas, on the other hand, can be caused by swallowing air and eating gas-producing foods or beverages, and other causes. The treatment for appendicitis most commonly involves surgical removal of the appendix. In contrast, treatment of intestinal gas involves avoiding gas-promoting foods and drinks, eating more slowly, and taking over-the-counter gas-relieving medications.
You should immediately seek medical guidance if you suspect you may have appendicitis or if your abdominal pain is severe or prolonged. Appendicitis is a medical emergency, and severe complications, including death, can occur if this condition is not promptly and adequately treated.
Frequently Asked Questions
Common symptoms of appendicitis include pain that often starts near the belly button and then moves to the lower right side, sharp, intense, persistent pain, possible nausea and vomiting, lack of appetite, a low-grade fever, and significant tenderness when pressure is applied to the abdomen.
In some instances, initially appendicitis can feel like trapped intestinal gas. However, symptoms of appendicitis typically progress and become more severe over time. Check out how to get rid of gas instantly from the stomach!
To rule out appendicitis, your medical provider will take a detailed medical history, perform a physical examination, possibly order blood tests and imaging studies such as an ultrasound or CT scan, and order a urinalysis to rule out urinary tract infections.
If you think you may have an inflamed appendix, it’s always advisable to get evaluated by a medical professional immediately. A medical professional can order a CT scan to help diagnose appendicitis.
- S. Borruel Nacenta, L. Ibáñez Sanz, Sanz, R., Depetris, M. and E. Martínez Chamorro (2023). Update on acute appendicitis: Typical and untypical findings. Radiología, [online] 65, pp.S81–S91. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rxeng.2022.09.010.
- Tanisa Patcharatrakul, Akarawut Juntrapirat, Narisorn Lakananurak and Sutep Gonlachanvit (2019). Effect of Structural Individual Low-FODMAP Dietary Advice vs. Brief Advice on a Commonly Recommended Diet on IBS Symptoms and Intestinal Gas Production. Nutrients, [online] 11(12), pp.2856–2856. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11122856.
- Claus Schildberg, Reißig, K., Hunger, R., Paasch, C., Rosi Stillger and René Mantke (2022). Diagnostic, Therapy and Complications in Acute Appendicitis of 19,749 Cases Based on Routine Data: A Retrospective Multicenter Observational Study. Journal of Clinical Medicine, [online] 11(15), pp.4495–4495. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm11154495.
- Wang, D., Dong, T., Shao, Y., Gu, T., Xu, Y. and Jiang, Y. (2019). Laparoscopy versus open appendectomy for elderly patients, a meta-analysis and systematic review. BMC Surgery, [online] 19(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12893-019-0515-7.
- Monsonis, B., Mandoul, C., Millet, I. and Taourel, P. (2020). Imaging of appendicitis: Tips and tricks. European Journal of Radiology, [online] 130, pp.109165–109165. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejrad.2020.109165.
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