Right Lower Abdominal Pain: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Janis

By Janis | Updated November 29, 2023

Experiencing lower right abdominal pain can be concerning and may leave you wondering about the potential causes. There are various reasons for this discomfort, ranging from mild to severe. 

In some cases, the pain might be indicative of an underlying medical condition that requires prompt attention.

Common causes of lower right abdominal pain include appendicitis, hernias, kidney issues, issues with the reproductive system, and gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome or indigestion.

As you better understand these potential reasons for your pain, remember that proper diagnosis and treatment should be sought from a healthcare professional.

Causes of Lower Right Abdominal Pain

The abdomen contains numerous organs, any of which could be causing the pain.

Appendicitis

Appendicitis is one of the common causes of lower right abdominal pain. It occurs when the appendix, a small pouch-like structure in your lower right abdomen, becomes inflamed and infected, causing severe and often sudden pain.

If left untreated, an inflamed appendix can burst, causing a potentially life-threatening condition called peritonitis.

It’s extremely important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you have appendicitis. Symptoms typically include pain that worsens with movement or coughing, fever, and sometimes nausea or vomiting.

Kidney Issues

Kidney issues such as stones or infections can cause pain in the lower right abdomen. Kidney stones can block the urinary tract, causing intense pain, while infections may result in a dull ache.

Ignoring kidney-related pain can lead to severe complications. The symptoms may include blood in urine, pain during urination, and a frequent urge to urinate. It’s essential to seek medical help if you experience any of these symptoms.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be a culprit for persistent lower right abdominal pain. This condition causes bowel irregularities, leading to pain, bloating, and discomfort in the abdominal area.

IBS symptoms can often be managed with lifestyle and dietary changes. However, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider for the correct diagnosis and treatment, as these symptoms may also indicate other potentially serious conditions.

Female Reproductive System Conditions

The female reproductive system is complex, and issues within it can manifest as lower right abdominal pain.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis, which affects people assigned female at birth, can cause significant lower right abdominal pain. This condition occurs when tissue similar to the womb lining begins to grow in other areas, such as the ovaries.

The primary indication of this condition is pain in the pelvic area, frequently linked with menstrual cycles. 

The pain intensity varies and can significantly impact quality of life. It is vital to consult a healthcare provider if you encounter such symptoms, as effective treatment options are available.

Menstrual Cramps

Menstrual cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea, often cause lower abdominal pain. The pain typically begins shortly before or at the start of the menstrual period and can be severe enough to disrupt daily activities.

While this pain is commonly accepted as a normal part of menstruation, persistent severe pain should not be ignored. It can be a sign of conditions like endometriosis or fibroids. Medical consultation is essential in clarifying the cause and managing the symptoms.

Ovarian Torsion

Ovarian torsion refers to the twisting of the ovary, causing a sharp, severe pain in the lower right or left abdomen. This can occur due to factors like physical activities or ovarian cysts, hampering blood flow to the ovary.

This condition requires immediate medical attention as it can lead to permanent damage if not rectified promptly. Symptoms include sudden severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Seeking emergency care is crucial in such cases.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection often caused by sexually transmitted bacteria. It affects the reproductive organs and can cause lower right abdominal pain, among other symptoms.

PID needs to be treated promptly to avoid serious complications such as fertility issues. Other symptoms can include irregular menstrual bleeding and painful urination. If you’re experiencing such symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance.

Ovulation Pain

Ovulation pain, medically known as mittelschmerz, affects some during the middle of their menstrual cycle. This condition can cause lower right or left abdominal pain depending on the ovary releasing the egg.

While ovulation pain typically lasts a few hours to two days, sudden severe pain may indicate a more serious condition and should prompt immediate medical attention. Regular mittelschmerz can often be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers or hormonal birth control.

Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy refers to the condition when a fertilized egg settles and grows outside the uterus, often in the fallopian tubes. This condition often causes lower abdominal pain, usually on one side.

This condition is potentially life-threatening and requires immediate medical care. Other symptoms can include vaginal bleeding and shoulder pain. Women experiencing such symptoms, especially those aware of being pregnant, should seek immediate medical attention.

Male Reproductive System Conditions

The male reproductive system, with its distinct anatomy, can sometimes be the cause of lower right abdominal discomfort.

Recognizing these specific conditions can aid in swift diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Inguinal Hernia

An inguinal hernia refers to the condition when a segment of the intestine protrudes through a vulnerability in the lower abdominal wall. 

This condition can cause pain or discomfort in the lower right abdomen, especially during physical activities like lifting heavy objects or straining.

Surgery is often required to treat an inguinal hernia.

Testicular Torsion

Considered a serious medical emergency, this condition occurs when the spermatic cord, responsible for blood flow to the testicle, becomes twisted. 

It results in severe pain, swelling, and redness in the testicles.

Prostate Issues

Your prostate gland, a reproductive organ, can also be a source of lower right abdominal pain. Conditions like prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) or an enlarged prostate can cause discomfort in this area.

It is recommended to consult a healthcare professional to determine the specific cause and appropriate treatment options.

Diagnosing Your Abdominal Pain

Identifying the root cause of lower right abdominal pain is pivotal not just for effective treatment but also for preventing potential complications. The diagnostic approach is multifaceted and often starts with a comprehensive medical history and physical examination.

Physical Examination

A physical examination allows healthcare professionals to assess the abdomen’s tenderness and detect any abnormalities.

Through palpation and observation, they can pinpoint specific areas of concern and further narrow down potential causes.

Blood Tests

Blood tests provide valuable insights into a person’s overall health and can detect potential issues.

They can identify inflammation, infection, or other underlying conditions that might be contributing to abdominal pain.

Supporting Laboratory Tests

Urine tests can reveal infections, kidney stones, or other urinary tract conditions that may influence abdominal pain.

Stool tests help diagnose infections, inflammatory diseases, or other digestive disorders contributing to pain.

Imaging Studies

Imaging studies provide detailed visuals of internal structures and help doctors identify abnormalities.

Standard methods include X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds, pinpointing sources of abdominal discomfort.

Diagnostic Procedures

Endoscopy and colonoscopy offer direct views of the digestive system. These procedures help identify ulcers, inflammations, or other abnormalities causing abdominal pain.

Endoscopy involves inserting a flexible tube with a camera into the digestive tract, allowing physicians to examine the upper part of the digestive system for issues causing pain.

Colonoscopy uses a long, flexible tube with a camera to view the insides of the colon to identify and address problems in the large intestine, pinpointing causes of abdominal discomfort.

When Is It an Emergency?

If you experience severe pain in your lower right abdomen, it may be a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical attention if the pain is sudden, sharp, and persistent. This could signal a potentially life-threatening condition, such as appendicitis.

Other warning signs that warrant a visit to the emergency room include a high fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Remember, some conditions can worsen rapidly if left untreated.

When in doubt, it’s always better to consult with a doctor. They can assess your symptoms and provide expert advice on the appropriate course of action. Early intervention can make a significant difference in your outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the common causes of lower right abdominal pain?

Common causes of lower right abdominal pain include appendicitis, hernia, kidney issues, reproductive system issues, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Issues with organs in the lower abdominopelvic cavity can also cause abdominal pain, such as the small intestine, colon, appendix, ovaries, uterus, ureters, bladder, and peritoneum.

Can gas cause pain in the lower right abdomen?

Yes. The presence of gas can lead to discomfort in the lower right abdominal region. This is often a result of the accumulation of gas in the intestines, leading to bloating and discomfort.

Gas-related abdominal pain usually passes once the excess gas is expelled. Regular exercise, dietary changes, and over-the-counter medications can help manage and prevent recurrent gas pain.

How can I differentiate between simple and severe lower right abdominal pain?

Simple lower right abdominal pain usually resolves on its own and may be associated with gas, indigestion, or muscle strain.

Severe pain tends to last longer, may be accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, bloating, or nausea, and could be a sign of a more serious condition like appendicitis.

When should I seek medical attention for lower right abdominal pain?

You should seek medical attention if the pain becomes severe, lasts longer than a few hours, or is accompanied by other symptoms like fever, vomiting, or difficulty breathing.

These could be signs of an underlying medical condition that requires prompt treatment.

Can pregnancy be a reason for lower right abdominal pain?

Yes, pregnancy can indeed be a reason for lower right abdominal pain. As the womb expands to accommodate the growing fetus, some women may experience discomfort or mild cramping.

However, severe or persistent pain can be a sign of complications like ectopic pregnancy or preterm labor, requiring immediate medical attention. It’s always crucial to consult a healthcare provider if you’re pregnant and experiencing abdominal pain.

How can gastrointestinal issues lead to lower right abdominal pain?

Gastrointestinal issues like constipation, diarrhea, or food intolerances can cause lower right abdominal pain by irritating the digestive system or leading to inflammation in the gut.

In some cases, the pain may be related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or an imbalance in gut bacteria.