Numerous conditions can cause right-sided upper abdominal pain. According to The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library, the most common cause of abdominal pain is intra-abdominal disorders 12. Organ problems can cause localized or diffuse pain throughout the abdomen. In some cases, pain may manifest in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, just below the ribs. Right-sided abdominal pain can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on the cause of the problem and the tissues involved.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
A duodenal ulcer can cause pain in the right upper abdominal quadrant. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, an ulcer is an open sore or lesion that's often found in mucous membranes within the body. Skin is another common location for ulcers to manifest. Stomach ulcers are called gastric ulcers, whereas ulcers in the duodenum or the first part of the small intestine are called duodenal ulcers. The general term for ulcers in the stomach and small intestine is peptic ulcer. Factors that may contribute to the development of duodenal ulcers include:
- Helicobacter pylori bacterial infection
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication
- A duodenal ulcer can cause pain in the right upper abdominal quadrant.
- According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, an ulcer is an open sore or lesion that's often found in mucous membranes within the body.
Signs of Kidney Blockage
Congestive hepatomegaly can cause right-sided upper abdominal pain 2. The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library website states that congestive hepatomegaly is a backup of blood in the liver 12. The most common cause of congestive hepatomegaly is heart failure 2. In some cases, heart failure causes blood to back up from the heart into the inferior vena cava, a large vein that drains blood from the lower portion of the body back to the heart. This kind of congestion boosts pressure within the inferior vena cava and veins that transport blood to it, such as the hepatic veins or the veins that drain blood from the liver. If the pressure is great enough, the liver itself becomes congested with blood and suffers dysfunction. Common signs and symptoms associated with congestive hepatomegaly include mild pain or discomfort and tenderness in the upper-right abdominal quadrant; an enlarged liver; and, in severe cases, jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
- Congestive hepatomegaly can cause right-sided upper abdominal pain 2.
- This kind of congestion boosts pressure within the inferior vena cava and veins that transport blood to it, such as the hepatic veins or the veins that drain blood from the liver.
Volvulus can cause pain in the right upper abdomen. According to the MedlinePlus website, volvulus is a twisting of the intestine that may occur during childhood 3. Volvulus can cause an intestinal blockage, and it may impair blood flow to part of the intestine, causing damage. The most common cause of volvulus is a birth defect known as intestinal malrotation. This birth defect does not always cause volvulus, but it significantly increases an infant's risk for developing this condition. If volvulus is going to occur, it usually manifests within the first year of life. Common signs and symptoms associated with volvulus include:
- pain or tenderness in the upper-right abdomen
- bloody stools
- abdominal distension or bloating
- vomiting green material
The MedlinePlus website states that the severity of volvulus-related symptoms usually causes parents to take their infant to the emergency room 3.
- Volvulus can cause pain in the right upper abdomen.
- This birth defect does not always cause volvulus, but it significantly increases an infant's risk for developing this condition.
Signs of Kidney Blockage
Reasons for High Creatinine and Uric Acid
Esophageal Hemorrhage & Alcoholism Symptoms
What Are the Causes of Stomach Edema?
Signs of a Blocked Artery
Side Effects of Eating Too Much Iron
Spleen Infarction Symptoms
Abdominal Pain Signs & Symptoms
Causes of Pains in My Upper Stomach
Iron Levels in Liver
- The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Acute Abdominal Pain
- The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Congestive Hepatomegaly
- MedlinePlus: Volvulus
- Le CK, Cooper W. Volvulus. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing. Updated March 13, 2019.
- International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. Volvulus. Updated October 2, 2019.
- Williams H. Green for danger! Intestinal malrotation and volvulus. Arch Dis Child Educ Pract Ed. 2007;92(3):ep87-91. doi:10.1136/adc.2007.116244
- Iida T, Nakagaki S, Satoh S, Shimizu H, Kaneto H, Nakase H. Clinical outcomes of sigmoid colon volvulus: identification of the factors associated with successful endoscopic detorsion. Intest Res. 2017;15(2):215-220. doi:10.5217/ir.2017.15.2.215
- Madiba TE, Aldous C, Haffajee MR. The morphology of the foetal sigmoid colon in the African population: a possible predisposition to sigmoid volvulus. Colorectal Dis. 2015;17(12):1114-20. doi:10.1111/codi.13042
- Albert AA, Nolan TL, Weidner BC. Sigmoid volvulus in 16-year-old boy with an associated anomalous congenital band. Am Surg. 2013;79(11):1140-1.
- Hegde S, Gosal P, Amaratunga R, Meulman N. Rare occurrence of small bowel volvulus following laparoscopic appendicectomy for perforated appendicitis. J Surg Case Rep. 2019;2019(1):rjz009. doi:10.1093/jscr/rjz009
- Kapadia MR. Volvulus of the small bowel and colon. Clin Colon Rectal Surg. 2017;30(1):40-45. doi:10.1055/s-0036-1593428
- Sawai RS. Management of colonic obstruction: a review. Clin Colon Rectal Surg. 2012;25(4):200-3. doi:10.1055/s-0032-1329533
- Halabi WJ, Jafari MD, Kang CY et al. Colonic volvulus in the United States: trends, outcomes, and predictors of mortality. Ann Surg. 2014;259(2):293-301. doi:10.1097/SLA.0b013e31828c88ac
Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician, health writer and the co-owner of a website devoted to natural footgear. He writes about health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Hughes earned his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.