7 Common Causes Of Right Upper Quadrant Pain: Complete Guide 2024

By Vanessa Richards

January 11, 2024   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

right upper quadrant pain

Have you been experiencing persistent right upper abdominal pain? Acute or severe abdominal pain can be hard to diagnose because the abdomen holds so many organs.

To understand what’s truly causing this pain, you need to assess all the potential causes of right upper quadrant pain (RUQ pain) & cross-check whether you identify with the symbols.

Below, we describe seven of the most common causes of upper right abdominal pain. We also discuss symptoms, treatments, & prevention tactics for RUQ pain.

But, before that, let’s understand what the right upper quadrant of your abdomen is.

What is the Right Upper Quadrant of Your Abdomen?

right upper quadrant pain
Photo: Pexels

American family physicians consider the abdomen to have four distinct sections. These sections are called “quadrants.” This categorization helps them better identify & diagnose symptoms of abdominal pain.

Once you narrow down abdominal pain to quadrant pain, treating it also becomes easier. Here are the four distinct abdominal quadrants:

  • The Right Upper Quadrant (RUQ): This section of your upper abdomen contains vital organs like the pancreas, liver, stomach, duodenum, & gallbladder.
  • The Left Upper Quadrant (LUQ): This quadrant of your upper abdomen contains vital organs like the spleen, liver, stomach, & pancreas.
  • The Right Lower Quadrant (RLQ): Contains reproductive organs, the appendix, & the right ureter.
  • The Left Lower Quadrant (LLQ): Contains the left ureter & reproductive organs.

Pain in the upper quadrants is typically the most common form of abdomen pain. Any form of upper abdominal pain indicates that you probably have health problem/s affecting one or multiple of the organs or tissues in these quadrants.

The right upper quadrant (RUQ) is more susceptible to severe pain because of the following potentially serious causes.

Potential Causes of Right Upper Quadrant Pain (RUQ Pain)

Pain in the upper right quadrant can stem from any of the organs mentioned above. But the human body is super-complex so it’s never easy to get a definitive diagnosis of severe RUQ pain.

Right upper quadrant aches can also stem from other regions of your body. This type of severe or acute abdominal pain is known as “referred pain.”

So, the best way to get a definitive diagnosis of RUQ pain is by taking two steps. First, assess your overall health condition. Second, examine the most common symptoms that you experience along with sharp pain in your right upper quadrant.

Here are the most common symptoms of right upper quadrant ache.

Common Symptoms of Severe Pain in the Right Upper Quadrant

Right upper quadrant aches will always vary in intensity & severity depending on the underlying health conditions. This type of abdominal pain typically feels like a sharp stabbing sensation.

People who experience sharp pain in their upper right quadrant must seek immediate medical attention. They should also watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Severe pain in the upper right quadrant
  • Persistent fever
  • Persistent nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in your stool
  • Upset stomach for more than 5 days
  • Swelling in your abdominal cavity
  • Unexplained & unintentional weight loss
  • Yellowish skin

If you’ve experienced severe abdominal pain & these other symptoms for more than 3-4 days – seek medical attention now.

Even if you’re only experiencing acute abdominal pains, you must try to understand the root of your abdominal pain before it evolves into life-threatening complications.

7 Most Common Causes of Right Upper Quadrant Pain

1. Kidney Problems

Your abdominal pain could be the symptom of an underlying kidney problem (specifically your right kidney). RUQ pain is a common symptom of kidney problems such as kidney stones, kidney infections, urinary tract infections, or even kidney cancer.

If you suspect that an underlying kidney problem is causing pain in your right upper quadrant, watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Abdomen pain that slowly spreads to the groin area
  • Frequent urination
  • Painful urination (a clear sign of a urinary tract infection)
  • Dark urine or blood in your urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Fever
  • Nausea

If left untreated, your kidney problem can rapidly evolve into a medical emergency. Seek medical attention before that happens.

2. Liver Problems

The liver makes up a huge chunk of your right upper quadrant. So, you’re likely to experience stomach ache if you suffer from the following liver-related health conditions:

Acute Hepatitis

Hepatitis is the hyper-inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C can all cause upper quadrant pain. Acute hepatitis becomes a huge cause for concern when it evolves into a hepatic abscess.

A hepatic abscess (also known as a pyogenic liver abscess) is a condition where pus gathers around the liver, causing pain & tenderness in the right upper quadrant.

Alcoholic Liver Disease

Excess alcohol consumption can damage your stomach lining & liver. This damage can affect your liver’s function and cause severe RUQ pain.

Liver Cancer

Liver cancer is a relatively rare form of cancer. But, it happens & it can cause RUQ pain. Other forms of cancer like leukemia can also cause your liver to expand in size, which can lead to RUQ pain.

If you suspect that a liver-related disease is causing pain in your right upper quadrant, watch out for the following symptoms :

  • Yellowish skin (a tell-tale symptom of jaundice)
  • Abdominal pain & tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Dark urine
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

If these other symptoms of liver disease are consistent with your abdomen pain, seek immediate medical attention.

3. Gallbladder Issues

Right upper quadrant pain is a common symptom of gallbladder diseases, such as:

  • Acute cholecystitis i.e., inflammation of the gallbladder
  • Choledocholithiasis, i.e., the presence of gallstones inside your bile ducts
  • Chronic gallbladder disease

Some other symptoms of these gallbladder diseases include – persistent fever, yellowish skin, dark urine & vomiting. If you suspect that a gallbladder-related disease is causing pain in your right upper quadrant, seek immediate medical attention.

4. Gastrointestinal Issues

Many people often mistake stomach aches for RUQ pain. But, that’s completely fine because an upset stomach can lead to a right upper quadrant ache.

RUQ pain can result from gastric issues, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, indigestion, gastritis, or other problems in the digestive system.

Technically, these digestive issues can be tackled at home by taking antacid medications, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, etc. But, more serious gastrointestinal issues like peptic ulcers deserve immediate medical attention.

A peptic ulcer is a sore on your stomach lining. This health condition is typically accompanied by severe stomach pain, abdominal bloating, constant farting, & nausea. If you have peptic ulcers, you’ll experience these symptoms for over 2 weeks.

5. Biliary Disease

Biliary cholangitis is a chronic biliary disease that affects your bile ducts. It’s caused due to abnormalities in your bile – a digestive fluid made in your liver.

These abnormalities (e.g., the production of over-acidic bile) can slowly destroy the bile ducts in your liver. A common symptom of a biliary disease is right upper quadrant pain.

6. Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a potentially life-threatening complication that approximately affects 5 to 8% of pregnancies in the world. It’s caused due to unexpected rises in the pregnant mother’s blood pressure. This spike in blood pressure leads to right upper quadrant pain.

Before this pain spreads to the right shoulder, pregnant women must receive immediate medical attention. Timely prenatal checkups & medications can help women treat/avoid preeclampsia.

7. Acute Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is a disease where your pancreas gets hyper-inflamed. Acute abdominal pain is one of the first symptoms of acute pancreatitis.

Before this disease becomes too serious, see a doctor. Also, look out for these other symptoms of pancreatitis:

  • Severe stomach ache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sharp pain in both your right & left upper quadrant
  • Bloating
  • Persistent nausea

Acute pancreatitis can be treated at home. We’ll discuss these treatment options later on in the article. In addition to these seven serious causes of upper right abdominal pain, here are some other conditions that may also cause this type of pain:

  • Myocarditis
  • Pneumonia
  • Cancer of the pancreas
  • Type 1 diabetes (diabetic ketoacidosis)
  • Addison’s disease
  • Pregnancy-related complications
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (ovarian cysts)

These listed causes are very serious & very rare. While they do cause right upper quadrant pain, that’s not the main symptom of these serious health conditions.

Treatment of Right Upper Quadrant Pain

There is no definitive diagnosis or treatment for right upper quadrant pain. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your RUQ pain.

Here are some examples:

  • If gallstones are causing pain in your abdomen, you’ll need to get a cholecystectomy & have your gallbladder removed.
  • If you have liver cancer, you’ll need a liver transplant to stop the severe stomach pain.
  • If you have acute cholecystitis, you’ll need a cholecystectomy to treat the infection.
  • Kidney infections need to be treated with intravenous antibiotics.
  • If kidney stones are triggering your abdomen pain, you’ll need to take strong pain relievers & drink plenty of fluids to drain the kidney stones out of your body and prevent any other kidney infection.

As you can see, there’s no definitive treatment for right upper quadrant pain. Thankfully, there are smart prevention strategies that can help you avoid life-threatening health conditions & the stomach pain that comes with them.

How to Prevent Abdominal Pain

Your right upper quadrant contains multiple critical organs. To prevent right upper quadrant pain, you’ll have to ensure that these organs are in optimal health. You can do so, by:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Eating fiber-rich foods to boost your digestive system’s health
  • Eat foods that contain healthy fats
  • Avoid eating fried foods & foods that contain refined carbohydrates to reduce the risk of digestive tract inflammation
  • Staying hydrated to keep your urinary tract clean
  • Avoiding smoking & limiting your alcohol intake
  • Exercising regularly & maintaining a moderate weight
  • Learn about abdomen pain, kidney problems, & other important topics related to this subject
  • Taking supplements that promote kidney, liver, & digestive health

The last two steps are very important & they’re the easiest to perform. Learn more about RUQ pain & take supplements that promote kidney, liver, gallbladder & digestive health.

Here are some of the most highly-rated resources & supplements that can help you prevent RUQ pain in the long run.

The Best Kidney Supplements for Preventing RUQ Pain

1. Program With Lifetime Support: Kidney Disease Solution

Kidney Disease Solution

The Chronic Kidney Disease is a must-read eBook for anyone struggling with kidney problems. It features the latest remedies for common kidney problems such as kidney stones, kidney infections, urinary tract infections, kidney cancer, etc.

More importantly, the eBook explains how simple lifestyle choices & dietary habits can help you prevent kidney problems.

This eBook offers simple explanations of kidney problems & how to treat them at home. The best section of the book is a realistic 3-stop recovery plan.

This plan can be performed at home. It can help people treat their RUQ pain & prevent it from becoming something too serious.

From 7-day diet plans to easy de-stressing techniques to straightforward guides on how to make kidney-revitalizing meals at home – this 133-page eBook has all the tools you need to repair your kidneys & prevent RUQ pain.

Shop Kidney Disease Solution Program at the Official Website.

Full Article: The Kidney Disease Solution Reviews 2024: Does it Really Work?

2. Organic Supplement That Boosts Kidney Health: Kidney Support

Kidney Support

Kidney Support is one of the most highly-rated kidney health supplements of all time. That’s because its unique formulation of rare, all-natural ingredients is extremely effective.

This supplement contains various anti-inflammatory & anti-oxidant ingredients such as – cranberry extracts, astragalus roots, birch leaf powder, goldenrod grass powder, horsetail powder, juniper berry powder, java tea leaf extracts, & more.

These herbal ingredients combine to nourish the kidneys, the gallbladder, and the urinary tract. When these essential organs are given these natural ingredients, their ability to filter toxins and waste items increases.

The more nourished your left & right kidneys are – the lower the risk of you experiencing RUQ pain. Kidney Support is a safe, popular, & 100% organic dietary supplement that anyone with kidney problems can use & benefit from.

Shop VitaPost Kidney Support at the Official Website.

Full Article: Vitapost Kidney Support Review: Does it Really Work?

The Best Liver Supplements for Preventing RUQ Pain

1. Advanced Liver Support Formula: Triple Health Liver Support

liver pain

Triple Liver Health is a highly-rated all-natural liver health supplement. It features a unique blend of nutrients, vitamins, anti-inflammatory agents, and antioxidants. These ingredients combine to improve your liver’s health at a cellular level.

Natural ingredients like silymarin, dandelion, artichoke, chicory, jujube seeds, & choline have been used to treat liver problems for centuries. Triple Liver Health brings all of these nourishing ingredients together. They combine to stimulate the cells in the liver to burn more visceral fat.

Preventing fat buildup in the liver lowers the risk of pyogenic liver abscess, liver cancer, liver enlargement, & other liver-related health conditions. If you drink alcohol, eat fried foods, or drink sugary liquids, you’re at a higher risk of RUQ pain.

Taking a nutritious supplement like Triple Liver Health can enhance liver health & lower that risk.

Shop Triple Liver Health Supplement at the Official Website.

Full Article: Triple Liver Health Reviews 2024: Does it Really Work?

2. Maintains Healthy Liver Function and Facilitates Detoxification: Bridport Health Liver Support

liver pain

Bridport Health Liver Support is a very popular dietary supplement among people who suffer from a pyogenic liver abscess. It has a patented formula that has been tested by multiple scientists.

According to them, there’s no doubt that this unique plant-based formula promotes detoxification in the liver.

What is this unique formula? A blend of rare nutrients like alpha lipoic acid, turmeric, milk thistle, Ashwagandha, green tea extract, cysteine hydrochloride, dandelion extracts, & more.

They all combine to protect the liver from all the radical damage it experiences because of alcohol consumption, poor dietary habits, & infections. Even if you don’t have a major liver-related health issue, taking this all-natural supplement can greatly benefit your liver & digestive health.

Shop Bridport Health Liver Support Supplement at the Official Website.

Full Article: Bridport Health Liver Support Reviews 2024: Does it Really Work?

The Best Probiotics Supplements for Preventing RUQ Pain

1. Best Prebiotic and Probiotic Supplement: Synogut

Colon Cleanse

SynoGut is one of the most popular probiotic supplements markets. This supplement is packed with probiotics, herbal laxatives, detoxifying substances, & a variety of anti-inflammatory ingredients.

That’s why it can help prevent stomach aches & abdomen pain. They include – Aloe Vera, psyllium, flax seeds, bentonite clay, & prune fruits. These ingredients can combine to eliminate all the toxins in your digestive system.

The better your digestion, the fewer is the number of toxins in your digestive system. Avoiding RUQ pain becomes much easier when your digestive health is optimized. Taking two SynoGut pills a day (one bottle contains 60 tablets) can transform your digestive health.

Shop at Synogut Official Website

Full Article: SynoGut Reviews: Does it Really Work?

2. Best For Gas and Bloating: Sane Viscera


Viscera from SANE Labs is a probiotic supplement that’s widely popular among people suffering from kidney problems. That’s because it contains Core-Biome Tributyrin – a patented short fatty acid. This short fatty acid can rapidly boost the amount of “good bacteria” in your gut.

Once that happens, you won’t have to worry about the health of your digestive system anymore. Your gut will heal itself & you won’t experience RUQ pain because of gastrointestinal issues anymore.

Shop at Viscera-3 Official Website

Full Article: Viscera 3 Reviews: Does it Really Work?

Risk Factors and Complications of Upper Quadrant Pain

The main risk factors for RUQ pain include underlying kidney problems, diabetes, poor dietary habits, pancreatic diseases, & liver disease. If you suffer from these health conditions, you’re likelier to suffer from RUQ pain.

If left untreated, RUQ pain worsens. This pain can seriously impact your ability to live your day-to-day life.

Before such complications arise, ask a medical professional to examine your symptoms. Give urine tests, undergo physical examinations, & address all of your suspicions. Avoiding RUQ pain will only make it worse.

Final Words

The cause of your RUQ pain could be something as serious as preeclampsia or biliary disease. Or, it could be a relatively less serious issue like indigestion. Regardless of the cause, you shouldn’t waste any time addressing your RUQ pain.

Your RUQ contains multiple critical organs. If you don’t learn how to monitor, manage, & prevent pain in this part of your body, you’re indirectly inviting a medical emergency. Don’t make that mistake.

Practice the prevention strategies mentioned above regularly. Eat a nutritious, fiber-rich diet. Take supplements that can optimize the health of your RUQ organs. Optimize your health to prevent the risk of severe RUQ pain in the long run!

Right Upper Quadrant Pain FAQs

What does right upper quadrant pain indicate?

Right upper quadrant pain indicates that there’s something wrong with one/many of the organs that are located in this region of your body.

Which is the most likely cause of upper right quadrant pain?

Kidney problems are the most common cause of RUQ pain.

What causes upper right quadrant pain besides gallbladder?

Kidney problems, liver disease, gallbladder disease, & even digestive issues can cause upper right quadrant pain.

What organ is in the right upper quadrant? 

The organs are the pancreas, liver, stomach, duodenum, & gallbladder.

Vanessa Richards

Vanessa is a mom of 3 lovely children and a software geek. Outside of her career as a health and wellness instructor. She enjoys writing and researching on topics such as finance, software, health and culinary.

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