10/08/2021 / Digestive Disease & Gastroenterology

An Insight into the causes of Right Upper Quadrant/Abdominal Pain

The extreme right quarter of your right side closest to your ribs is RUQ – Right Upper Quadrant. Severe illness such as inflammation or injury can lead to acute pain.

An Insight into the causes of Right Upper Quadrant/Abdominal Pain
Mazia AhmedMazia Ahmed

Mazia Ahmed

MSc Nutrition Science, Ph.D. Scholar

Table of Content


Before getting into the deep-down information and knowing the causes, you need to be sure about the proper placements of the upper quadrant and the location. Getting enough knowledge about the sequences of different body parts will help you understand and figure out the consequences. 

What is the Right Upper Quadrant, and Where is it exactly located?

The right upper quadrant is a specific section located in the tummy or precisely abdomen if you imagine your abdomen divided into four quarters. Then the extreme right quarter of your right side closest to your ribs will be RUQ – right upper quadrant. 

5 Elements or Organs that Consists of the RUQ

1. Gallbladder 

2. Liver

3. Part of Pancreas

4. Right Kidney

5. Duodenum and some other parts of the large and small bowel 

Along with these organs, there are also the skin and nerves of that section that make the whole thing more active. 

Now let's get into the facts. 

What might cause pain at RUQ?

  • Pain is the intolerable thing that exists in mankind, but other living creatures can witness it. Now, when it comes to the human body, the specific pain in RUQ causes different disturbances. Pain can come from an additional source that leads to the most significant trouble. Now, the human body is never simple, so undoubtedly, pain is caused by several parts of the body. 

  • As the upper right quadrant is complex, severe deteriorations can be witnessed, such as inflammation, obstruction, or injury to any of its structures that can seriously lead to acute pain. The causes are broadly discussed below, which will give you knowledge about RUQ pain. 

2 Common Causes of RUQ Pain

1. Obstructive Causes: This is a specific cause that involves pain in the upper right abdomen. And that leads to:

  • Stones: We all are familiar with this term, but few of us know the specific consequences of the pain caused by the gallbladder. Pain can be varied due to mild to chronicle impact on the organ and cause different issues. Severe pain is the most ultimate result. In general cases, gallstones can be obstructed by the common bile duct, and then the condition, preferably known as cholelithiasis, is born. This obstruction typically leads to preventing the gallbladder, liver, and even pancreas from draining correctly. According to research, "Gallstone disease is one of the most common causes of RUQ pain. Gallstones are present in more than 10% of the population. 

  • Ulcers: Ulcer is a highly complex formation caused by the sores lining the stomach or duodenum. It causes an obstruction literally to lead the upper abdomen falsely, and as a result, you can witness acute pain at the time of eating.   

2. Inflammatory Causes: If any upper right abdomen's structure can become inflamed due to infectious causes, it can result in pain. Irritations can also be observed as a cause of RUQ pain.  

2 Causes of RUQ Pain
  • Infectious: Many complications can occur through several bacterial and viral infections. These severely damage the organs related to the right upper abdomen. Even these infections can have an adverse effect on the liver. 

  • Irritation: Irritation can be caused in several ways and through various resources. Since the upper abdomen plays a crucial role in our body and is primarily positioned for meaningful work, simple negligence or deterioration can severely damage the organ. It is also responsible for processing food and digestion equally. Thus, the upper abdomen witnesses susceptible irritations in multiple ways. Gallstones are also a significant part that often faces irritation. A person can easily overcome it by decreasing toxic substances such as alcohol, smoking, spicy and oily foods, etc.

But Why RUQ specifically?

  • Right upper quadrant pain is explicitly called the referred pain that opens several possibilities. Research says that gallstones are one of the most frequent causes of pain in this area in adults. But several other common possibilities can also exist, such as kidney infections, shingles, and severe ulcers in the upper part of the guts.  As the right upper quadrant is one of the crucial sections of the human figure, it invites several other consequences that make the whole thing critical. 

  • Suppose you are feeling abdominal pain. In that case, you might resolve it on your own by following some home remedy. Still, in most cases, doctors and experts recommend taking suggestions, and it can be resolved in a faster remedy. However, your negligence might lead to serious illness as well.

9 Major Symptoms of RUQ Pain

Depending on the other complications, many symptoms can be witnessed, along with the pain in your abdomen. These might include:

1. Nausea

2. Vomiting

3. Fever

4. Headache 

5. Diarrhea

6. Swelling in your abdomen

7. Blood in the stool

8. Pain or difficulty at the time of breathing 

9. Tenderness in the abdomen 

A person might face different kinds of pain, and most of the time, the abdominal pain is minor but can cause severe discomfort. Depending on the organ and the condition, sometimes these can be serious.  Hence the characteristics of pain involved:

1. Severe Abdominal Pain: This pain can be acute and comes on very quickly. This specific kind of pain generally appears suddenly and usually targets rapid deterioration of health and hints that anything can be severe. 

2. Visceral Pain: Generally, this pain comes from the organs, which are preferably called the viscera. Viscera pain is monotonous and stretching. Also, you can feel several critical responses related to the organs that affect the surrounding muscles contracting. 

Visceral pain is usually:

  • Vague

  • Nauseating

  • Dull and

  • Hard to pinpoint 

When the abdomen is divided into four parts or quadrants, the most critical segment: the liver, resides at the right upper quadrant. So, when the entire liver has become dysfunctional, it could cause severe pain in your right upper quadrant. 

Physicians suggest that liver problems generally trigger pain in the upper abdomen, including Hepatitis A, B, and C, including liver abscesses, alcoholic liver diseases, and liver cancer. 

1. Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is responsible for liver swelling and inflammation. It is a kind of liver infection caused by a virus. This condition leads to several chronic symptoms of vomiting, fever, and diarrhea. 

2. Hepatitis B: This is also caused by a virus that leads to liver swelling, and it gradually becomes inflamed. This condition gets contagious until the perfect recovery system has been introduced to the body, and hence, it invites other acute diseases. 

3. Acute Hepatitis C: The specific hepatitis C virus mainly causes this, and this inflammation and damage to the liver happen. Kids, youngsters, and adults get infected by this particular virus. Acute hepatitis C generally causes fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, fever, and abdominal pain. It can cause pale white stools, dark urine, jaundice, and yellow skin in most cases.

5 Effective ways to overcome such Liver Problems, and How would you treat that?

1. Treating liver problems sometimes gets critical, and it solely depends on the type of condition affecting your liver.

2. Doctors also suggest changing the lifestyle and opting for a healthy lifestyle.

5 Effective ways to overcome Liver Problems

3. Quitting alcohol and smoking and making diet changes and food habits are the essential parts of liver functioning.

4. Also, avoiding junk food is quite a necessary and foremost step for such patients.

5. Other severe liver conditions may require medications and even a transplant if needed. 

Pregnancy: The Most Common Cause of RUQ

  1. As we are talking about some primary reasons that cause severe pain in the RUQ, one of the most important reasons is Preeclampsia –  the roughest pregnancy conditions that women suffer. The condition can occur within 20 weeks into a pregnancy or more than that. It also can develop earlier. 

  2. You should always be cautious about the condition, be it pregnant or not. Preeclampsia is a typical pregnancy issue that deals with the Right upper quadrant pain. Predominantly, women suffer from some severe pain issues due to this specific time, and due to some hormonal changes, the body gets disturbed. However, this specific problem drastically increases blood pressure and can damage the liver and kidneys. 

  3. The symptoms can be found due to Preeclampsia:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Mild to severe headache tendency

  • Some light allergies

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Urine protein in heavy amount

  • Increase in weight 

  • Decrease in urine output 

  • Kidney or liver problems

  • Sensitivity to light and blurred vision can occur. 

Word of Wisdom

Whether you are suffering from any particular disease or not, you need to be careful and take precautions at every step of your life. Abdominal pain is not an experience; it's a punishment you could face due to negligence. Your first and foremost task will be to determine the cause after feeling any disturbance. For severe symptoms, do take advice from experts, and even a general physician will guide you for the best. Whether you are facing serious issues or major problems, or emergency signs, you need to evaluate and take ultimate precautions. Till then, take care and stay safe!


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