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Why do I have pain in the right side of my abdomen?

14 May 2020 in Health

Pain in the right side of your abdomen (tummy) is often nothing to worry about, but as some of these conditions may need medical attention, it’s important to know what’s causing it.

Pain in this area could be coming from your digestive tract or stomach, but it may also be related to other organs in this area: your small and large intestine, right kidney, liver or appendix.

Several different conditions can cause discomfort in this part of the body, but understanding the differences between them and which organs they affect, could help you pinpoint the cause.

Digestive problems

Digestive problems such as constipation, gastroenteritis or food poisoning can cause pain in the right side of your tummy.

Chronic bowel conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can also cause pain in this area.

If you’re not sure if your bowels or digestive system are causing you pain, ask yourself the following questions:

  • does the pain feel crampy or come and go in waves?
  • do I feel bloated or sick?
  • do I find it hard to poo? (constipation)
  • do I have heartburn or acid reflux?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, your pain may be linked to a digestive problem.

Chronic or long-term digestive problems need to be treated by a doctor, but common conditions like gastroenteritis or constipation can be treated at home.

Try to drink plenty of fluids and take painkillers if you need help to manage the pain. If you have constipation or indigestion, it may help to make small changes to your diet and lifestyle, such as eating high-fibre foods, drinking plenty of fluids or going for a daily walk.

Note: You should always visit a doctor if the pain won't settle or you’re worried about your symptoms. Also go straight to a doctor if:

  • there’s blood in your poo
  • you’ve lost a lot of weight without trying to
  • your symptoms are getting worse
  • you’re struggling to swallow

Kidney conditions

Pain from the kidney tends to be a dull, aching pain, but some kidney conditions can cause intense stabbing pain. You may feel like the pain starts at the back of your abdomen, or that it comes and goes.

Conditions that affect your kidneys include kidney stones, kidney infections and kidney cancers.

If you have a kidney infection, you may feel pain along your urinary tract (towards the bottom right corner of your abdomen) and it’s not unusual for kidney pain to get worse when you pee.

If you think your kidneys may be causing the pain, ask yourself the following questions:

  • do I have a high temperature (fever)?
  • do I feel shivery?
  • is there blood in my pee?
  • do I have symptoms that are normally associated with a bladder infection?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, see a doctor.

Kidney stones and infections can cause long-term damage to your kidneys, so it’s important to treat them quickly.

Liver conditions

Any condition that causes your liver to become inflamed or swollen can cause dull, aching or stabbing pain towards the right side of your abdomen.

This includes liver infections like hepatitis A or B, liver cancer or an abscess. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic liver disease can also cause liver pain, but most types of liver disease don’t cause any symptoms in the early stages.

See a doctor if you think your liver may be causing the pain.

Conditions like hepatitis and alcoholic liver disease can be treated, but it’s important to act fast because they can permanently scar your liver if left untreated.

Appendicitis

The appendix is a small organ located in the bottom-right corner of your abdomen. If your appendix gets inflamed or swollen (appendicitis), it can cause sudden, sharp or stabbing pain that gets worse when you move around or cough.

Other symptoms include constipation or diarrhoea, loss of appetite and nausea.

Untreated appendicitis can be life-threatening. You should seek medical help immediately if the pain in your abdomen:

  • gets slowly worse
  • gets worse suddenly and spreads across your tummy
  • gets a little better before getting worse again (this may be a sign that your appendix has burst)

References:

Payne D. Right Lower Abdominal Pain | Right Lower Quadrant [Internet]. Patient.info. 2020 [cited 20 March 2020]. Available here.

Inflammatory bowel disease [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2020 [cited 20 March 2020]. Available here.

Stomach ache [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2020 [cited 20 March 2020]. Available here.

Constipation [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2020 [cited 20 March 2020]. Available here.

Gastroenteritis [Internet]. Nhsinform.scot. 2020 [cited 20 March 2020]. Available here.

Pain in Kidney or Urine Diseases [Internet]. National Kidney Federation. 2020 [cited 20 March 2020]. Available here.

Tidy D. Kidney Stones - Symptoms, Causes and Treatment [Internet]. Patient.info. 2020 [cited 20 March 2020]. Available here.

Kidney infection [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2020 [cited 20 March 2020]. Available here.

Harding D. Right Upper Abdominal Pain (Right Upper Quadrant) [Internet]. Patient.info. 2020 [cited 20 March 2020]. Available here.

Alcohol-related liver disease [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2020 [cited 20 March 2020]. Available here.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2020 [cited 20 March 2020]. Available here.

Appendicitis [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2020 [cited 20 March 2020]. Available here.

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

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