Right Upper Quadrant Pain

Causes of Right Upper Quadrant Pain

More than 10.4 million sees were made to U.S. emergency clinic for abdominal pain in 2010, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The causes of abdominal pain are lots of and variety from self-limited to deadly. Pain felt in the right upper region of the abdomen — called the right upper quadrant, or RUQ — typically occurs from organs in this area. However, other, more remote organs might likewise direct pain to this area.

Gallbladder Disease

Located underneath the liver in the RUQ, the gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile. Gallstones in some cases obstruct bile flow out of the gallbladder, causing extending of the organ and RUQ pain. Inflammation of the gallbladder, called cholecystitis, might likewise cause pain in this area. Although unusual, cancer of the gallbladder or significant bile ducts is another possible reason for pain in this region.

Liver Disease

Located in the RUQ, the liver is the biggest solid organ in the body. It has a capsule with many nerve endings located along the surface. Conditions that stretch the liver pill typically set off pain. Liver inflammation, or hepatitis, can establish from numerous causes. Viruses, unusual fat build-up in liver cells and excessive alcohol consumption typically cause liver inflammation and pain.

Pockets of infection, called abscesses, can also increase the size of and extend the liver pill. In many cases, infection from the female reproductive organs infects the liver pill, triggering pain. Likewise, liver cancer may stretch the liver capsule and trigger RUQ pain.

Digestive Tract Disorders

Though a less common cause, inflammation of the colon — called colitis — can activate right upper quadrant pain. This may be an outcome of infection or an inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn disease. Diverticulitis is a type of colitis that happens in weak areas of the colon called diverticula, which are outpouchings in the bowel wall. It is more common in the left lower quadrant however can take place in other areas of the bowel. Irritable bowel syndrome might cause generalized or local abdominal pain, which may involve the RUQ.

Lung Conditions

The diaphragm and the right lung are straight above the RUQ of the abdomen. Although the lungs are not in the abdominal area, nerve endings may direct pain into the RUQ, a phenomenon referred to as referred pain. Pneumonia in the lower lobe of the right lung, in specific, can lead to local pain. Other lung conditions that result in inflammation of the lining around the lungs, called pleurisy, might set off abdominal pain. Pleurisy is often triggered by viral infections but might also be the result of more severe conditions such as lung embolism, where a blood clot goes into the lungs.

Kidney Conditions

The kidneys are a set of organs located in the back of the abdomen. Diseases that cause inflammation of the right kidney might result in RUQ pain. Kidney and urinary tract infections can be connected with abdominal pain, back pain, and burning with urination. Kidney stones can aggravate the urinary tract or block urine flow from the kidneys. This blockage might cause the kidneys to end up being swollen and enlarged, triggering pain. Cysts on the kidneys can also cause pain by extending the tissue over the kidneys.

Other Causes

The pancreas remains in the upper middle abdominal area, but might cause RUQ pain via referred pain. Pancreatic inflammation may occur when gallstones block ducts leading to the pancreas or with alcohol abuse, possibly causing RUQ pain.

People who have had surgery or trauma to the abdomen might establish scar tissue called adhesions. Adhesions can disrupt normal anatomy and cause nerves to travel to areas they would not otherwise go, potentially triggering pain in the RUQ.


Last modified: January 1, 2018

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