Appendicitis vs. Pancreatitis: What You Need To Know

On the one hand, your digestive tract does some amazing stuff—like breaking down food and liquid to help nourish cells and provide you with energy. However, on the other hand, your digestive tract also does some not so amazing stuff—like producing gallstones, acid reflux, bloating, gas and constipation—and that’s just the beginning. In all seriousness, though, you likely experience one or more of these tummy troubles daily.

But when is that daily stomach struggle actually something more? (Like it is for millions of people). And what should you do about it?

When it’s not just stomach pain…

While appendicitis may not be your first thought when your stomach hurts, there’s a reason it’s still the most common type of stomach emergency, right along with acute pancreatitis. Now, if you thought these conditions were basically the same thing, you’re not alone. Here’s a quick look at their key differences:

Your appendix is just a little guy—about the size of your finger—with a purpose that’s TBD (to be determined). When this hollow structure, which is attached to the colon, becomes blocked, it becomes infected and swollen. The result of infection is—you guessed it—appendicitis.

What is pancreatitis?

Your pancreas can be found on the left side of your belly, behind your stomach. Unlike your appendix, though, your pancreas 2 big jobs—making enzymes to help break down food and making insulin to help regulate your blood sugar. However, when these enzymes attack the pancreas, instead of going into the digestive tract, the outcome is acute pancreatitis.

So, if the anti-acids, anti-gas medications and other stomach-soothers don’t seem to be doing the trick, watch for these key signs and symptoms:

How can I tell if it’s appendicitis?

·         You’ve likely heard this before, but pain in the abdomen is the most common symptom.
o   Oftentimes, you’ll feel the pain around your belly button, but it may begin to move to the lower right side of your belly.
o   Unfortunately, pain typically worsens as time goes on.
·         Appendicitis doesn’t just cause the typical stomach pain, though, you may also notice:
o   Nausea and/or vomiting
o   Loss of appetite
o   Fever and chills
o   Trouble having a bowel movement (constipation)
o   Loose stool (diarrhea)
o   Trouble passing gas
o   Swollen belly

How can I tell if it’s pancreatitis?

·         Severe belly pain that may spread to your back or chest (it may feel worse after you eat)
·         Nausea
·         Vomiting
·         Rapid heart rate
·         Fever
·         Swelling and feeling sore or tender in your upper belly
·         Fluid buildup in your belly
·         Lowered blood pressure
·         Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

What should I do?

Because stomach pain is (far too) common, it’s easy to talk yourself out of going to get personalized medical care. Maybe it’s just something you ate the other night, or the intense workout you did over the weekend—but why chance it? When it comes to stomach pain, a thorough diagnosis, effective treatment options and peace of mind are never a bad thing. In fact, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered. 


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