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.

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 your doctor to have your symptoms evaluated.

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

severe abdominal pains
persistent nausea and vomiting
blood in your stool
swelling or tenderness of your abdomen
unexplained weight loss
yellowish skin (jaundice)
Causes of RUQ pain
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:

pain that radiates to the lower back or groin
painful urination
foul-smelling urine
frequent urination
blood in your urine
nausea or vomiting
If you have RUQ pain and suspect it may be due to a kidney problem, you should make an appointment with your 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:

yellowish skin (jaundice)
abdominal tenderness
nausea or vomiting
darkened urine
unexplained weight loss
If you have RUQ pain and symptoms that are consistent with a liver condition, you should see your doctor.


Preeclampsia is a condition that typically occurs in women 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:

severe headache
nausea or vomiting
decreased urination
protein in urine
kidney or liver problems
blurred vision or sensitivity to light
shortness of breath
Your doctor should be monitoring your blood pressure as part of your 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 child 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
darkened urine or light-colored stools
yellowish skin (jaundice)
If you’re experiencing symptoms consistent with gallstones or choledocholithiasis, you should see your doctor. Stones in the bile ducts can lead to serious complications.

Gastrointestinal issues

A variety of gastrointestinal issues, such as indigestion, gastritis, and peptic ulcers, can cause RUQ pain.

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 see your doctor if you have symptoms for a week or longer. If you suspect that you have a peptic ulcer, you should see your 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 and additional symptoms can include:

nausea or vomiting
increase in heart rate
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 include an injury or trauma, pneumonia, and shingles.

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

Additionally, they may order some tests to reach a diagnosis, including:

a basic or comprehensive metabolic panel (BMP or CMP) to evaluate your liver function, blood cell counts, and electrolyte levels
urinalysis to assess your kidney function or to check for a UTI or kidney stones
stool culture to see if there are any pathogens present in your stool
endoscopy to check for the presence of ulcers
imaging tests, such as ultrasound, X-ray, or CT scan, to help see the inside of your abdomen or to check for the presence of stones
Treatment for RUQ pain is dependent on what’s causing it. Examples include:

pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen to relieve discomfort
antacids to help neutralize stomach acid
medications such as proton pump inhibitors or acid blockers to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach or intestines
antibiotics to kill bacteria that are causing an infection
surgical procedures, such as those to remove stones or excise a tumor
cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy
Shop for antacids.

Medical procedures and recovery
Typically, your doctor will try to avoid performing a surgery whenever possible. It may be necessary for some conditions in order 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, your doctor may choose to remove your gallbladder completely.

If your kidney stones are too large to be passed naturally, your 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 or liver cancer, surgery may be necessary to remove a tumor, depending on the cancer’s stage and severity.