Did I have short-term appendicitis?
August 31, 2014 9:45 PM   Subscribe

A strange incident happened several years ago, that I think was appendicitis but can't be sure.

This happened nearly twenty years ago when I was in college. I was at work at my part-time job, when I gradually felt a pressure, then a pain in my lower right abdomen. The pain grew slowly and then suddenly there was a sharp pain there that had me doubled over for about half a minute.

That pain then faded away, but at the same time I was hit with an abrupt and acute nausea. I got flushed and hot, and felt like throwing up. I ran to the bathroom and did just that. After that, the nausea and the pain faded away, and after another half hour or so, I was back to normal and it was as if it had never happened.

At the time I suspected it was appendicitis, and that I should go to the doctor. Being a poor American college student, though, of course I did not go to the doctor. I was wary for the next few days and weeks and months, but this pain never repeated--it was just a one-off thing.

So what was it ? The sharp pain followed by nausea led me to think that some kind of...bad stuff...got released into my bloodstream--perhaps toxins from an infected appendix. Can appendicitis come and go like that?
posted by zardoz to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
Definetly not appendicitis. The pain of a burst (or inflamed, even) appendix would definetly not fade away within a few minutes.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:50 PM on August 31, 2014 [7 favorites]

Are you female? If so, this may have been a ovarian cyst bursting, not appendicitis. When your appendix bursts it's a big deal and it doesn't just last a few minutes. I have had the exact same symptoms a few times, and have gone to urgent care each time thinking it's appendicitis or appendicitis in progress, and each time it's been a ruptured cyst. The small cysts yielded shorter-term symptoms like what you had; the first time a rather large cyst burst I got to stay in urgent care over night because I was in such profound pain for so many hours. Even then, not appendicitis! The hot flush and sudden acute nausea is apparently a massive hormonal reaction. I get the same two symptoms due to PMDD if I'm not on BC. YMMV.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:53 PM on August 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you have ovaries, it might have been an ovarian cyst. Your gallbladder is also located on the right-hand side, and this could have been biliary colic (passing a gallstone).
posted by northernish at 10:18 PM on August 31, 2014

No. I had appendicitis when I was 8 years old. I had a pain, I rode my bike, then I laid on the couch and moaned and moaned, until my parents took me to the hospital. Then I had my appendix removed.

Later on, my Dad had his removed, and my sister. You cannot miss appendicitis. You can have gas, or a gall bladder pain, I guess, but if your appendix is going out, you will know it. It's agonizing pain, not like gas or anything else. And it doesn't go away.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:18 PM on August 31, 2014

It could even have been gas. Trapped gas can be excruciating -- so much worse pain than you would think possible from such a minor occurrence. But yeah, I'm not a doctor, but I can't imagine it could have been your appendix. I have a friend whose appendix ruptured when she was in high school and it wasn't treated for about a day and a half (she had some fairly neglectful parents) and she got peritonitis and sepsis and was in the hospital for four months. The pain did not fade in half an hour, and she has health consequences to this day, a decade later. If I had to vote, it would be an ovarian cyst (assuming that's an anatomical possibility) or trapped gas.
posted by KathrynT at 10:27 PM on August 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Thirding that gas pain can be really surprisingly intense, especially in places -- like near your appendix -- where it has to turn a corner.

Your gallbladder is also located on the right-hand side, and this could have been biliary colic (passing a gallstone).

Wouldn't that be in the upper right quadrant, not lower right?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:38 PM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Absolutely was not your appendix. As others have noted, it does not get better on its own. Once your appendix is infected, it must be removed within 24 hours or it bursts and you die/almost die.

And another vote for ovarian cyst; I speak from experience.
posted by Specklet at 10:48 PM on August 31, 2014

Wouldn't that be in the upper right quadrant, not lower right?

It is, but if we're talking about a twenty-year-old memory, I'm throwing it out there. The perception of lower/upper quadrant pain can also be inexact outside of palpation, especially if the person is sitting.
posted by northernish at 11:11 PM on August 31, 2014

Thanks, everyone for the replies. Alas, I am male, so all the ovary-based answers don't apply. Must've been gas then. I just wonder why I got so nauseated. Thanks again!
posted by zardoz at 11:23 PM on August 31, 2014

I have irritable bowel syndrome and sometimes I get gas or intestinal cramps that hurt enough to leave me doubled over and vomiting, matching your description pretty much exactly. I was vomiting for 12 hours once during a particularly bad IBS attack and ended up in the ER, but these short attacks that resolve quickly are more usual. I figure it's a combination of two things, my body rejecting what ever is in my digestive tract in case that's causing the problem and just a straight reaction to the pain. Pain on it's own is enough to cause nausea sometimes. I've been checked for appendicitis several times because of where the pain tends to be located, my ileocecal junction seems to be really great at holding onto gas.

An infection of any kind - even a mild one (which is possible) - would not have hit so fast then left so soon. This is clearly some kind of acute functional attack, probably gas but maybe just a random cramp.
posted by shelleycat at 11:46 PM on August 31, 2014

Kidney stones can make you wish it was your appendix or the baby you didn't know you were having. And they can come and go like that. They can block things up and cause everything you describe before moving out of the way again.

Not a doctor, just an experienced veteran of internal calcium rocks getting stuck here and there.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:00 AM on September 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

You could have also had mesenteric lymphadenitis. I had this when I was a kid and almost had my appendix out as a result; for me it was a very sharp pain in my lower right abdomen that took more than a day to go away. It's basically a transient inflammation of lymph nodes deep in your abdomen. Can't remember if I had nausea/vomiting but those are listed as symptoms.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:02 AM on September 1, 2014

Bad gas, an ulcer, and gallstones can cause similar symptoms.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:33 AM on September 1, 2014

Kidney stone? I was once on a train commuting home when I had the same sort of sharp pain in my lower abdomen and went sweaty and nauseous. My co-worker with whom I was sitting was debating with me about whether to get off the train at the next stop or continue to one that was closer to the hospital. I was so much in pain I was asking if anyone had a pocket knife. I was preparing to do my own appendectomy. The pain subsided a little bit so I went on to my stop, got into my car and drove to Dr office. He concluded kidney stone and a few days later, it hurt me like a mofo to pee and then viola, no more pain.
posted by 724A at 6:04 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ya I dropped in to agree with the kidney stone answers. That's it in my book.
posted by chasles at 7:09 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kidney stones usually hurt for at least a few hours, not just a few minutes.

I'm a doctor who sees a lot of appendicitis. Just agreeing with the consensus this was not your appendix - appendicitis is an infection, it doesn't come on and then disappear that quickly.

Intense pain often causes people to feel nauseated.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:00 AM on September 1, 2014

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