Medical News Today: What is this pain in my lower right abdomen?

Several different conditions can cause pain in the lower right area of the abdomen. Some of these are severe and require immediate medical attention, so it is important to know the differences.

The abdomen is the area between the chest and the pelvis. It contains vital organs involved in digestion, such as the intestines and the liver. The lower right portion of the abdomen contains a part of the colon, and the right ovary in women.

This article will outline the potential causes of pain in the lower right abdomen, their symptoms, and whether someone should seek medical assistance for them.

Less serious causes

woman with pain on left side of stomach
There are a number of conditions that can cause pain in the lower right abdomen.

Pain in the lower right abdomen can mean several different things. It can often be brief and not require any medical attention. These less serious causes include:

Indigestion

Pain can be felt in the lower abdomen region as a result of indigestion, which can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as heartburn and flatulence.

Indigestion is easily managed with over-the-counter medication but may require medical attention if symptoms last for more than 2 weeks.

Intestinal gas

When food is not digested properly, gas can build up in the intestines. This can cause feelings of discomfort and bloating in the abdominal region.

Symptoms will usually pass in a matter of hours, but persistence for several weeks could indicate a more serious underlying condition, such as lactose intolerance.

Menstrual cramps

Women can experience abdominal pain before or during their period. The pain can be described as dull and persistent. It may be accompanied by aches in the back and legs, feelings of nausea, and headaches. Symptoms often occur in waves and continue for several days.


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More severe causes

kidney stone illustration
Kidney stones can cause pain as they move through the urinary system.

In some cases, a pain in the lower right abdomen can indicate a more serious condition that will require immediate medical assistance.

Appendicitis

When the pain is specific to the lower right abdomen, appendicitis is one of the most common causes. The appendix is a tube-like structure attached to the large intestines.

Appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed. This causes a brief pain to develop in the middle of the abdomen, which spreads to the lower right abdomen where the pain becomes severe.

Other symptoms can include:

In some cases, it may be necessary to remove the appendix to relieve the pain. The function of the appendix remains unknown, and its removal does not pose any further health risks.

Kidney stones

Minerals and salts can build up in the kidney to form hard lumps, known as stones.

The size of kidney stones can vary considerably. The smaller stones can pass through the urinary system unnoticed, but larger stones can get stuck and cause severe pain around the lower back, side, abdomen, and the groin.

As the stones move throughout the urinary system, the pain will vary in its location and severity.

Other symptoms can include:

  • blood in the urine
  • pain when urinating
  • persistent urge to urinate
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Kidney infection

It is possible for either one or both kidneys to become infected by bacteria in the urinary system. Pain typically occurs in the lower back, side, and groin. It can also be felt in the lower abdomen.

The pain is often less severe than from kidney stones, but medical attention is required to prevent permanent damage.

Other symptoms can include:

  • nausea
  • fever
  • diarrhea
  • loss of appetite

Kidney infections can be mistaken for urinary tract infections, such as cystitis, that have similar symptoms. These also include other symptoms, namely:

  • blood in the urine
  • pain when urinating
  • smelly or cloudy urine
  • persistent urges to urinate

Hernia

A hernia is where an internal body part pushes through a weakening in a muscle or tissue wall and causes a small lump. They most commonly happen around the abdominal area.

Hernias are often harmless and occur with few other symptoms. However, some can cause soreness around the lump, which may intensify when strained, such as when coughing or lifting a heavy object.

Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition of the digestive system. Its cause is unknown, and there is currently no cure for IBS.

IBS can cause pain in the abdominal area along with other symptoms, including:

  • stomach cramps
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • bloating
  • gas

Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to a group of conditions that affect the digestive system.

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease both cause an inflammation of the gut and make up most cases of IBD. They can cause pain in the lower abdomen plus:

  • rapid weight loss
  • tiredness
  • bloating
  • persistent diarrhea, often with blood


Gender-specific causes

There are significant anatomical differences between the abdomens of males and females. These differences mean that pain in the lower right abdomen can have gender-specific causes.

These conditions also require immediate medical attention.

Female only

young woman lying on consultation bed speaking to consultant
Some gynecological conditions, such as endometriosis, can cause abdominal pain.

Ovarian cyst

Cysts are sacs that can develop on the ovaries. They are often harmless, but larger ones can cause a dull or sharp pain in the abdomen. Other symptoms can include:

  • pain during sex
  • persistent urination
  • bloating
  • abnormally heavy or light periods
  • becoming full very quickly
  • difficulty urinating

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is where the tissue that typically lines the womb is found in other areas, such as the ovaries or the stomach. It is a chronic condition and can cause pain in the lower abdomen or back.

The severity of symptoms varies and can include:

  • severe period pains
  • pain during or after sex
  • pain when urinating or emptying bowels during a period
  • nausea
  • abnormally heavy periods

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the genital tract. It can cause abdominal pain, but symptoms are often mild and infrequent. They can include:

  • pain during sex
  • pain during urination
  • abnormally heavy or painful periods
  • bleeding between periods or after sex
  • nausea
  • fever

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy can occur when a fertilized egg is present outside the womb, such as in one of the fallopian tubes. It can cause pain in the abdomen and other symptoms, including:

  • typical signs of pregnancy, such as a missed period
  • vaginal bleeding or brown discharge
  • pain around the shoulder
  • pain when urinating or emptying bowels
  • nausea
  • diarrhea

Many of these symptoms can also occur because of a stomach bug.

Ovarian torsion

The ovaries can become twisted with surrounding tissues, restricting blood flow. This causes severe pain in the lower abdomen. Other symptoms can include:

  • pain during sex
  • nausea
  • abnormal periods

Male only

Inguinal hernia

Inguinal hernias typically occur when fatty tissue or a part of the bowel pushes through passages located in the lower abdomen. This is the most common type of hernia and typically occur in males.

An inguinal hernia causes a small lump to develop at the top of the thigh and can cause abdominal pain.

Testicular torsion

The spermatic cords that attach to the testicles can become twisted and restrict blood flow. This can cause pain in the abdomen and other symptoms including:

  • pain when urinating
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • swelling in the scrotum


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Outlook

In the majority of cases, a pain in the lower right abdomen is not a cause for concern. Gas, indigestion, and menstrual cramps do not typically require a visit to the doctor.

However, medical attention should be sought if any of the other conditions mentioned here are suspected, or if the pain lasts for more than 2 days.

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