Causes of right upper quadrant abdominal pain

Written by jeannie knudson | 13/05/2017
Causes of right upper quadrant abdominal pain
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Nearly everyone experiences abdominal pain at some point in their life. The pain is usually short-lived and causes minimal discomfort. But, when the pain is localised to a specific region of the abdomen, recurs or does not go away, or is severe, there may be underlying causes that require medical attention. Causes of right upper quadrant abdominal pain may be due to something as simple as increased stomach acid or involve infection or organ damage.


Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining that can cause upper abdominal pain, bloating and heartburn. The condition happens when the stomach becomes irritated due to alcohol consumption, prolonged use of aspirin or ibuprofen, or infection. Lifestyle changes and medication are often prescribed to lower the amount of acid in the stomach.

Gallbladder Pain

A gallbladder infection or gallbladder stones may cause right upper quadrant abdominal pain. The pain may also be felt in the central abdomen or wrap around the ribcage to the back. When an infection is present, there may be a fever. Abdominal pain associated with the gallbladder may occur more often after eating.


Liver problems often cause right upper quadrant abdominal pain. The liver helps remove toxins from the blood and when the liver becomes infected or diseased, abdominal pain is often the first symptom. An infection may also cause abdominal swelling and jaundice (yellow or sallow coloured eyes and skin). If diagnosed early, liver problems can be treated effectively. Without medical attention, an infection may lead to cirrhosis and permanent liver damage.

Colon Problems

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are both inflammatory bowel diseases that affect the colon. Both conditions usually cause lower abdominal pain and diarrhoea, but it's not uncommon for individuals to have right upper quadrant abdominal pain as well. Crohn's disease and colitis may be treated with medication to help control symptoms.


Upper right quadrant abdominal pain may be a symptom of kidney infections or kidney stones. With a kidney infection, individuals experience abdominal pain, painful urination, cloudy urine and fever. Kidney infections can be remedied with medication and treatment should be administered quickly to avoid permanent kidney damage or blood poisoning. Kidney stones can be extremely painful as they pass through the urinary tract, but the symptoms disappear quickly once the stones have passed.


Upper right quadrant abdominal pain may be a sign of infection in the pancreas. The symptoms of infection of the pancreas are similar to gallbladder diseases. Upper abdominal pain that may radiate to other parts of the stomach or back that often worsens after eating are common symptoms. Pancreas infections usually require hospitalisation for a day or two to treat the infection and monitor the condition.


Ulcers or sores in the stomach can cause pain anywhere in the abdomen, but abdominal or peptic ulcers are so common in the U.S., that upper right quadrant pain can often be attributed to them. Peptic ulcer pain can come and go and may be aggravated by eating spicy foods or having a completely empty stomach. Medications are usually prescribed to help heal the ulcer, but occasionally surgery is required.

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