When Should I Be Worried About Right Side Pain?

Reviewed on 9/26/2022

A doctor pressing on a woman's abdomen
If you have severe pain in the right side of your abdomen as well as the following symptoms, it is a medical emergency requiring immediate attention: fever, abdominal swelling, abdominal tenderness, bloody stools, yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), persistent nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, and blood in the urine.

Right-sided pain can be caused by a number of medical problems. The most common surgical emergency that causes right-side pain in patients is appendicitis. The appendix is a long finger-like tube that connects to the first part of the large intestine (the colon).

Appendicitis is when the appendix becomes inflamed and infected. When appendicitis occurs, the appendix can swell and may burst, which can cause infection in the abdomen.

Severe pain in the lower abdomen on the right side is usually the first symptom of appendicitis. Characteristics of the pain include: 

  • Often starts near the belly button and moves toward the lower right side
  • Happens quickly and worsens within hours
  • Worsens on inhalation, coughing, sneezing, or moving

Some symptoms of right side pain can mean a severe medical problem is happening in the body. There are symptoms that are a cause for worry about right-side pain.

Call a doctor right away or get to a hospital’s emergency department if you have right side pain in the lower abdomen that is severe and is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

Other symptoms of appendicitis may include: 

Call a doctor right away or get to a hospital’s emergency department if you have symptoms of appendicitis. The risk of the appendix bursting increases after the first 24 hours of symptoms, and if the appendix bursts, surgery to treat it is more complicated.

What Causes Appendicitis?

Appendicitis may be caused by:

  • Blockage of the appendix lining 
  • Infection in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or elsewhere in the body that results in swollen tissue in the wall of the appendix
  • Abdominal trauma
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Stool, parasites, stones or growths that can block the appendiceal lumen

How Is Appendicitis Diagnosed?

Appendicitis may be diagnosed with just a patient history and a physical examination. The doctor can press on the abdomen to check for pain and tenderness in the lower right side and swelling or rigidity.

Tests to confirm appendicitis may include:

What Is the Treatment for Appendicitis?

If the appendix has not burst, appendicitis may sometimes be treated with antibiotics but without surgery, there is a chance appendicitis will return so surgery is usually recommended.

If the appendix has burst, surgery is often more complicated and incisions might be larger or the surgery might take longer.

What Are Other Medical Problems that Can Cause Right Sided Abdominal Pain?

In addition to appendicitis, right side pain may also be caused by: 

QUESTION

On what side is your appendix located? See Answer

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Reviewed on 9/26/2022
References
REFERENCES:

Image source: iStock Images

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/appendicitis-in-adults-the-basics?search=Appendicitis&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=2

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/appendicitis

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/appendicitis/treatment/ https://www.geisinger.org/health-and-wellness/wellness-articles/2018/01/04/20/18/ouch-whats-that-pain-in-my-side