Abdominal pain is one of the common pains which afflict age of all persons. It is also among the difficult forms of pain to diagnose, given that it can be caused by several conditions. The abdomen houses several of the body’s organs, and conditions of any of them can lead to pain.
Assessing the location of pain has become a helpful way for understanding and finding out the specific causing conditions and the organs that have been affected.
What Organs Are Present Under Right Rib Cage?
Anatomically, the abdomen can be divided into four approximately equal regions called quadrants, from the front. These regions in turn map to various organs. The region under the right rib cage falls within the right upper quadrant and maps to the gallbladder, liver, part of the small intestine called duodenum, part of the large intestines, part of the pancreas, and the right kidney. Consequently, pain under the right rib cage may result from conditions which affect any of the organs located within the right upper quadrant.
Pain Under Right Rib Cage Causes
There are various reasons for pain under right rib cage. Pain occurs when organs present in this region gets affected. Injuries to the rib, liver or kidney problems, digestive system related problems, costochondritis, ulcers, crohn’s disease etc. may cause pain under the right rib cage. Important causes are explained here.
The kidneys are the main organs responsible for urine production. They are located behind the other organs which are located in the right upper quadrant. Even though pain from kidney problems is more likely to be felt at the back, it is not uncommon for such pain to be realised in the frontal right upper abdomen.
1. Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are hard lumps which form in urine. These can lead to severe pain, even though they do not usually cause permanent problems.
Causes – They usually result when certain constituents of urine, increase in concentration beyond normal limits.
Symptoms – Kidney stones may present without symptoms. They may pass out with urine without being noticed. The following symptoms may accompany kidney stones:
- Pain on urination
- Smelly urine
- Difficult urination
- Frequent urination
- Urinating in bits
- Pain at the back or abdomen, below the right rib cage.
Types – Kidneys stones can be classified by the type of mineral it is predominantly made of. Common types include calcium, struvite and uric acid stones.
- Calcium Stones – These may be composed of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate, and are the most common forms of kidney stones.
- Struvite Stones – Struvite stones are predominantly composed of struvite, a phospate mineral. They are notable for growing large quickly and often result from infections.
- Uric Acid Stones – Predominantly composed of uric acid, it is more common in men and has been associated with high protein and low water intake.
- Urinary tract infections
- Low water intake
- High protein diets
- Kidney disease
Diagnosis of kidney stones requires testing. Tests commonly used by doctors include blood tests and urine tests. Images of the urinary tract may also be necessary and, depending on the case, an x-ray or CT-scan may be requested.
Treatment – Treatment for kidney stones may include drugs to reduce the pain, or surgery if they cause a lot of pain and cannot pass out with urine naturally.
Natural Home Remedies
- Increased water intake – Drinking a lot of water may prevent further kidney stone formation, and help with flushing out those which have been formed already.
- Intake of a lot of fruits
2. Kidney Infection
Of all urinary tract infections, kidney infections are the most serious. They can damage the kidney, and cause kidney failure. The bacteria which cause these infections can also enter the blood from the kidneys and cause blood infections. These complications can lead to death. Therefore, kidney infections require urgent care.
Causes – The kidneys usually become infected when bacteria move into them from the urethra through the bladder. Kidney infections may also result from an infection spread from other parts of the body.
Symptoms – Kidney Infections may not present with symptoms. If they do, the following are common:
- Frequent urination
- Pain or burning during urination
- Blood in urine
- Urine which flows in bits
- Pus in urine
- Foul urine smell
Kidney Infection is more likely to occur with these factors:
- Untreated Urinary Tract Infections – Kidney infections commonly occur following other urinary tract infections. Bacteria which cause kidney infections commonly spread from infections of the urethra or bladder.
- Infrequent Urination and Holding Urine – Passing urine frequently, allows the urinary system to flush out bacteria and other organisms which can cause disease. Holding urine or urinating infrequently, perhaps due to inadequate water intake, provides a good environment for organisms to cause disease.
- Urinary Retention – Anything which blocks urine from passing out, predisposes the urinary tract to infection. Accumulated urine provides a good substrate for bacteria to flourish and cause disease. Enlarged prostate and prostate cancer is conditions that result in urine retention.
- Catheterization – Catheters are used to conduct urine outside the body, when the urethra is blocked and cannot do so normally. Because a part of the catheter remains outside, poor hygiene or infection control allows disease causing organisms to pass into the urinary system and cause disease.
- Reduced Immune System – The body’s disease-fighting system wards off a lot of conditions even though we do not realize them. When the immune system is weak, certain conditions which could have been tackled are able to progress and cause symptoms which must be treated.
Kidney infections can be difficult to diagnose because they may show no symptoms. To arrive at an accurate diagnosis, doctors will perform a physical exam by palpating or using the stethoscope to listen to sounds from the portion of the back coinciding with the location of the kidney. Requests will also be made for urine and blood tests to confirm the presence of an infection.
Antibiotics administered through injection are often the first line of treatment. Doctors may prescribe other drugs based on the nature of the infection. It is also not uncommon for someone suffering from kidney infection to get hospitalized, since it is considered as a medical emergency.
Because kidney infections can result from a blockage of the urinary tract, treating underlying conditions is necessary. Doctors may prescribe drugs in this regard.
Natural Home Remedies
- Drinking a lot of water – Water intake helps the kidney to flush out and helps with healing from a kidney infection.
- Rest – The body requires adequate rest to heal. Having adequate rest will facilitate speedy recovery from kidney infections.
It is important to note that home remedies alone are not enough to cure kidney infections, and it is always important to report to a doctor promptly.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the kidney. An inflammation is one of the body’s ways of fighting diseases and foreign organisms. However, inflammation can go overboard, cause unbearable symptoms and even lead to death. Hepatitis may range from mild to life-threatening.
Causes – Hepatitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and chemicals including drugs.
- Pain at the abdominal area under the right cage
- Changes in stool colour
- Itching of the skin
- Loss of appetite
- Hepatitis A – Caused by the Hepatitis A virus, it is very contagious and most likely to be contracted from contaminated food, water, and contact with body fluids. It often goes away without treatment.
- Hepatitis B – It is the most serious form of hepatitis, and is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. It can be spread through body fluids especially during sex. It is also believed that it can be transmitted in body fluids like saliva even though this is debated. It can resolve without treatment or last for more than six months in which it becomes chronic. Chronic Hepatitis B can damage the liver permanently and lead to death.
- Hepatitis C – It is similar to Hepatitis B but can only be transmitted through blood contact. Unlike Hepatitis B, it currently does not have a vaccine and can recur even after treatment.
- Alcoholic Hepatitis – Alcoholic hepatitis results from long-term alcohol consumption. It is believed to result when the chemicals released during the digestion of alcohol damage the liver. Cessation of alcohol intake may facilitate recovery, while continued consumption may cause permanent liver damage.
- Toxic Hepatitis – Toxic hepatitis results when the liver gets exposed to certain substances. These may include drugs, supplements, or industrial chemicals. While it is usual for it to occur following prolonged use, in some cases inflammation may occur within hours after exposure.
- Sexual contact
- Use of certain drugs or supplements
- Sharing of needles or other instruments which facilitate blood contact
- Blood transfusion
- Tattooing and piercings
Hepatitis is often diagnosed may be based on the following tests:
- Blood tests – A sample of blood is taken and analysed in the laboratory to confirm liver infection, and establish the strain of the causative virus in the case of viral hepatitis.
Depending on the cause of hepatitis, treatment may include administration of antiviral drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, lifestyle modifications or stopping the use of drugs or supplements.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. A portion of it is located within the right upper quadrant as explained previously. The pancreas produces two important hormones, insulin and glucagon, responsible for controlling the amount of sugar in the blood.
Causes – Causes of pancreatitis may include the following
- Cigarette smoking
- Certain types of abdominal surgery or procedures
- Certain drugs
- High blood calcium
- Injury to the abdomen
- Pancreatic cancer
- Pain in the upper right abdomen which may worsen after eating
- Increased heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss especially with chronic forms
- Smelly stools
- Acute Pancreatitis – This form of pancreatitis has a sudden onset and typically resolves within a couple of days
- Chronic Pancreatitis may last for more than three months and cause severe damage to the pancreas, including scarring.
Diagnosis – Diagnosis of pancreatitis requires tests. Tests commonly used by doctors include blood tests, stool tests, endoscopy and radiologic tests like CT-Scan, MRI and Abdominal Ultrasound.
Treatment – Treatment primarily focuses on symptomatic relief and may involve control of pain and rehydration, and fasting to allow the pancreas to heal. If pancreatitis is caused by another condition, it is treated accordingly.
Conditions Of The Digestive Tract
Because a portion of the digestive system, the oesophagus and intestines, are located in the right upper quadrant, digestive problems may result in pain under the right rib cage.
Food which has not digested well often undergoes changes which may lead to pain. They may undergo fermentation, absorb water and subsequently be acted on by bacteria. Bacterial action on food often results in the production of gas which may be expelled as flatulence. If for any reason gas is unable to pass out, it may travel along the digestive tract and cause pain.
6. Acid Reflux Disease
Certain factors including eating spicy foods, eating in excess, abdominal fat or obesity, some diseases of the digestive system, tight clothing around the abdominal area and pregnancy, can force the acid in the stomach, which helps in the breakdown of food, into the oesophagus.
The oesophagus is the tube which connects the mouth to the stomach. The acid influx may irritate the oesophagus and result in burning sensation and pain within the chest area or under the right rib cage. It may also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and a feeling of sourness or bitterness in the throat.
7. Intestinal Gas
Talking while eating, eating too quickly or eating high fibre foods, dairy foods, certain protein-rich foods like beans, may result in the accumulation of gas within the digestive system.
Additionally foods may be acted on by organisms in the small intestines and result in the release of gas. If these are not passed out they may cause pain at any part of the abdomen.
8. Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation of the colon, a large intestine, believed to result when the walls of the large intestines are attacked by the immune system. At best this results when the immune system gets confused and attacks the tissues of the large intestine.
Because a part of the large intestine is located in the right upper quadrant, ulcerative colitis can cause pain under the right rib cage in association with diarrhoea, fever, painful and sometimes bloody stool. Treatment is necessary to avoid complications like perforation of the large intestine walls, cancer of the colon and blood clots.
Treatment may involve antibiotics, corticosteroids or surgery.