Right upper quadrant pain can be caused by various conditions, including many that affect the liver, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder, and digestive system.

Your abdomen is divided into four quarters, or quadrants. Imagine a vertical line that divides your abdomen in half. Then, imagine a horizontal line at the level of your belly button. The uppermost quarter on your right-hand side is your right upper quadrant (RUQ).

The RUQ contains many important organs, including parts of your liver, right kidney, gallbladder, pancreas, and large and small intestine.

It’s important for you to pay attention to pain in your RUQ because it could be an indicator of a number of diseases or conditions. It can require emergency medical attention.

RUQ pain may vary in intensity depending on the underlying condition. The pain may feel like a dull ache or a sharp stabbing sensation.

If you have had abdominal pains that last more than a few days, you should make an appointment with a doctor to have your symptoms evaluated.

However, some symptoms may indicate a medical emergency. You should seek medical help immediately if you have:

Pain in the upper right quadrant can be a sign of many health conditions, some of which are serious.

If you experience pain that lasts longer than a few days, it is important to talk with a doctor to determine the cause and the best course of treatment for you.

You should also seek immediate medical attention if the pain is accompanied by other symptoms, including nausea or vomiting, fever, unintentional weight loss, or blood in the stool.

While some causes of RUQ pain may resolve on their own over time, other conditions associated with right upper quadrant pain can cause serious complications if left untreated.

Kidney problems

Kidney problems such as kidney stones, a urinary tract infection (UTI), a kidney infection, or kidney cancer can lead to RUQ pain.

Symptoms that can accompany RUQ pain due to a kidney problem include:

If you have RUQ pain and suspect it may be due to a kidney problem, you should make an appointment with a doctor.

Liver conditions

Liver conditions can also lead to RUQ pain. Examples include hepatitis, a liver abscess, or liver cancer.

In addition to RUQ pain, other symptoms of a liver condition can include:

If you have RUQ pain and symptoms that are consistent with a liver condition, you should see a doctor.


Preeclampsia is a condition that typically occurs in people who are at least 20 weeks into their pregnancy. It can also develop earlier in pregnancy, or, in some cases, postpartum.

The hallmark of preeclampsia is a rise in blood pressure, but RUQ pain often occurs as well.

Additional symptoms can include:

A doctor typically monitors your blood pressure during prenatal care visits. However, if you experience preeclampsia symptoms such as RUQ pain, blurred vision, or shortness of breath, you should seek immediate medical care as it can be life threatening for both you and your baby if left untreated.

Gallbladder problems

Gallbladder problems, such as gallstones or choledocholithiasis, can cause RUQ pain. Choledocholithiasis is the presence of gallstones within your bile ducts.

RUQ pain due to gallstones may last several hours and most often occurs after a large meal or in the evening. Additional symptoms to look out for can include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever
  • chills
  • darkened urine or light-colored stools
  • yellowish skin (jaundice)

If you’re experiencing symptoms consistent with gallstones or choledocholithiasis, you should make an appointment with a doctor. Stones in the bile ducts can lead to serious complications.

Gastrointestinal issues

A variety of gastrointestinal issues can cause RUQ pain. These can include:

  • Indigestion. Indigestion or an upset stomach refers to discomfort in your abdomen.
  • Gastritis. Gastritis is the inflammation of your stomach lining and is often caused by infection.
  • Peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcers or gastric ulcers are sores on the lining of the stomach.

Typically, the pain caused by these conditions is a dull, burning type of pain. Other symptoms can include:

  • a feeling of uncomfortable fullness
  • abdominal bloating
  • burping or gas
  • nausea or vomiting

While most cases of indigestion and gastritis are mild and will resolve themselves, you should meet with a doctor if you have symptoms for longer than 2 weeks. If you suspect that you have a peptic ulcer, you should talk with a doctor.

Pancreatic conditions

You can feel RUQ pain if your pancreas is inflamed, which is known as pancreatitis. The pain that you experience from pancreatitis slowly worsens over time. Additional symptoms can include:

Most cases of pancreatitis require hospitalization for treatment.

Additional triggers for right upper quadrant pain

In addition to the conditions discussed above, other underlying conditions can trigger pain in your RUQ.

These can include:

Inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) is the most common diagnosable cause for pain in the right upper quadrant.

Cholecystitis usually occurs when the main opening to the gallbladder becomes blocked, either by a gallstone or biliary sludge. Though less common, it may also be caused by accidental damage to the gallbladder.

Oftentimes, right upper quadrant pain is also accompanied by other symptoms. These symptoms may include:

If you experience sudden and severe RUQ pain, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible, especially if the pain lasts longer than a few hours or is accompanied by any of the symptoms listed above.

In order to diagnose the cause of your RUQ pain, a doctor will request your medical history and also perform a physical examination.

Additionally, they may order some tests to reach a diagnosis. These tests may include:

Treatment for RUQ pain is dependent on what’s causing it. Examples can include:

Typically, a doctor will try to avoid performing surgery whenever possible. It may be necessary for some conditions to avoid complications or the disease worsening.

For example, if gallstones that block a bile duct (choledocholithiasis) are not removed, there can be life threatening complications. In some cases, a doctor may remove your gallbladder completely.

If your kidney stones are too large to be passed naturally, a doctor may choose to use sound waves to break the stones into smaller pieces that can be passed. They may also use a scope to remove the stones.

If you are diagnosed with kidney cancer or liver cancer, surgery may be necessary to remove a tumor, depending on the cancer stage and severity.

Since your RUQ contains many important organs, it’s important to monitor RUQ pain and any additional symptoms in order to seek treatment in a timely manner and avoid complications.

Examples of potential complications include:

  • kidney infection caused by an untreated UTI
  • high blood pressure, kidney failure, or kidney scarring due to an untreated kidney infection
  • low birth weight, preterm birth, organ damage, or death caused by unaddressed preeclampsia
  • inflammation or infection of the gallbladder or pancreas due to untreated gallstones
  • increased risk of ulcers or stomach cancer from untreated gastritis
  • progression of cancers that are not caught early

You can help prevent some causes of RUQ pain by:

  • eating a nutritious, well-rounded diet, which involves:
  • staying hydrated, as drinking lots of liquids can help flush bacteria from your urinary tract
  • using calcium supplements only as directed to avoid kidney stones
  • avoiding indigestion by limiting foods or drinks that are spicy, greasy, or contain a lot of acid or caffeine
  • avoiding smoking, if you smoke, or considering quitting
  • reducing your alcohol intake, if you drink alcohol
  • maintaining a moderate weight

The possible causes of RUQ pain can vary. Some of them, such as indigestion, are common and will often go away on their own. Others, such as preeclampsia or pancreatitis, need to be addressed right away.

Since your RUQ contains a variety of important organs, it’s important to monitor RUQ pain.

If you’ve had RUQ pain for a week or longer, you should make an appointment to see a doctor. If you experience signs of a medical emergency, like severe pain that lasts longer than a few hours or fever in addition to RUQ pain, you may need emergency medical attention.