What Does Pain on Your Right Side Mean?

Medically Reviewed By Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D., R.N., CRNA
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Pain on your right side is a common problem that can be due to a variety of minor to serious conditions. Pain on the right side of your belly, or abdomen, is usually related to one of the organs in that area. Pain can become a concern if it is persistent or if it causes intense discomfort.

This article will outline the potential causes of pain on your right side. It will also look at signs and symptoms of possible issues, and it will explain when you should seek medical assistance.

What can cause right side pain?

woman holding back
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Pain on the right side of your abdomen may be sharp or dull and last a short time, often called acute pain, or a long time, known as chronic pain. The pain might start in one place and radiate to another.

Symptoms you experience with pain can be very important for you and your doctor in figuring out the potential cause of your pain. They can include nausea, cramping, diarrhea, fever, and constipation.

There are many causes of abdominal pain that are related to a number of conditions.

Read more about overall abdominal pain here.

When to contact a doctor

Mild abdominal pain that goes away and does not come back may not need treatment. However, talk with your healthcare professional if you are experiencing severe abdominal pain or if it keeps coming back. It is never normal to have abdominal pain, so explain your symptoms fully.

Your medical professional will evaluate the issue by considering minor, common conditions against more serious conditions. The location of pain and length of time the pain has persisted will also be important.

Serious symptoms for which you should seek medical care include:

Minor conditions that cause right side pain

There are many causes of right side pain that are due to minor conditions.

  • Indigestion: This can cause pain or discomfort in your abdomen, leaving you feeling bloated and sick. Certain medications along with diet and lifestyle changes can help with indigestion.
  • Gas: Gas in your intestines can also cause right side pain. Gas buildup can be caused by food not being fully broken down, eating large amounts of food, eating particular foods, or even smoking.
  • Menstrual cramps: Period pain is a normal part of the menstrual cycle and can often cause painful cramps in the abdomen.

Serious conditions that cause right side pain

There are also many causes of right side pain that can indicate a serious underlying condition.

Liver conditions

Liver disease, liver cancer, or a liver infection may cause abdominal pain.

These conditions may cause pain in the right side of your upper abdomen. Upper right abdominal pain usually feels dull and chronic.

Other symptoms can include:

Gallbladder disease or gallstones

Both gallbladder disease and gallstones may be a source of pain in the upper right abdomen.

Symptoms can include:

  • sharp, acute pain radiating to your back
  • pain after eating a fatty meal
  • clay-colored stools
  • jaundice
  • fever

Cancer, infection, and diseases of the right side of the colon

There are many colon-related diseases and infections that can cause cramp-like pain in the right side of your lower abdomen.

Symptoms of these illnesses may include:

  • changes in bowel habits
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • mucus or blood in the stool
  • tenderness when pressing on the lower right abdomen
  • constipation

Appendicitis

Appendicitis causes acute pain that starts in the middle or right side of the abdomen and moves down to the lower right side.

The lower right side may be tender and swollen. Other symptoms may include chills, fever, nausea or vomiting, and constipation or diarrhea.

Kidney disease, kidney infection, and kidney stones

Kidney problems such as infections, kidney stones, or kidney disease can cause acute pain. The pain will be sharp and may move behind the ribs or into the groin.

Other symptoms may include:

  • a burning feeling when urinating
  • blood in the urine
  • fever
  • tenderness in the right flank — the side area between your ribs and hip

Pelvic conditions in females

Conditions in a female pelvic area that can cause lower right abdominal pain include ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cyst, and infection.

An ectopic pregnancy is a fertilized egg that has attached outside the uterus, typically within one of the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancy pain may be acute and sharp. Other symptoms may include vaginal bleeding and changes in your bowel habits.

Pain from an ovarian cyst may come and go. It may be dull and may radiate to the back. Other symptoms may include abnormal and painful periods. A pelvic infection may cause fever and vaginal discharge or bleeding.

Blood clot or infection in the right lung

blood clot that moves to the lung is called a pulmonary embolism. Blood clots in the right lung may cause right upper abdominal pain that is sharp, severe, and acute.

Other symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may include:

A blood clot or infection in the right lung can also cause abdominal pain on the right side.

At-home treatments for right side pain

A proper diagnosis of the cause of right side pain will need to be made before any treatment can be given.

Healthcare professionals may suggest medication in low doses to alleviate the pain until a diagnosis is reached.

Summary

Pain on your right side can stem from various issues, ranging from minor ailments to serious conditions. It is usually related to one of the organs in that area.

You should seek immediate medical care if the pain is severe or if it persists for more than a few days.

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Medical Reviewer: Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D., R.N., CRNA
Last Review Date: 2022 Mar 3
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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