Right lower quadrant (RLQ) pain is tummy (abdominal) pain that is mainly in the lower half on the right-hand side. It is sometimes also called right iliac fossa (RIF) pain, although this really means pain in a smaller area in the lower right corner of your tummy (abdomen).
Where is my right lower quadrant?
The right lower quadrant (RLQ) is a section of your tummy (abdomen). Look down at your tummy, and mentally divide the area from the bottom of your ribs down to your pubic hair into four quarters. The quarter on your right side below your belly button (umbilicus) is your RLQ.
By Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436.
What is in my right lower quadrant?
By Mariana Ruiz Villarreal, modified by Madhero88 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Small bowel (ileum).
- The connection between your small bowel and your large bowel (caecum).
- First part of your large bowel (colon).
- Right ureter (at the back of the other organs).
- Right ovary and Fallopian tube.
And don't forget the skin and nerves of that area.
What might give me pain there?
There are a lot of possible causes for pain in the RLQ. In fact half of all people who get sudden, severe tummy (abdominal) pain, get it in their RLQ. It is particularly common in children. Very generally, the older you are the more likely your lower tummy (abdominal) pain is to be in the left lower quadrant instead.
The pain can come from any of the organs mentioned above, and indeed these are the source for the most common causes. But the human body is never simple, so pain can come from other areas of your body. This is called 'referred' pain. So this rather widens the possible options. Pain in this area can vary from minor niggles to excruciating, life-threatening problems.
Some of the more common possibilities are:
- Tummy upsets (gastroenteritis) and conditions causing inflammation of the gut, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and diverticulitis.
- Mesenteric adenitis.
- Trapped (incarcerated) right inguinal hernia or femoral hernia.
- And specifically in women:
- And specifically in men:
You can also read about other less common causes.
Should I see a doctor?
Yes, if you have a pain which doesn't settle, you will probably need to see a health professional to help you figure out the cause. See a doctor urgently if you:
- Have very severe pain.
- Have persistent sickness (vomiting).
- Have recently lost weight without trying to do so.
- Have persistent diarrhoea.
- Feel giddy, light-headed, faint or breathless.
- Are bringing up blood or have blood in your poo (faeces).
- Have a change from your usual bowel habit. This means you may open your bowels more or less often than usual, causing bouts of diarrhoea or constipation.
- Could be pregnant.
How will they find the cause of the pain?
The doctor will be able to get a reasonable idea of the reason for the pain by asking you some questions and examining you. They may want to test a sample of your urine, You may then have to have further tests, depending on their suspicions at this stage. These may be done urgently or in due course, again depending on their suspicions and how much pain you are in. Possible tests might include blood tests, an ultrasound scan, an X-ray, a look into your bowel with a camera (colonoscopy) and other scans and 'scopes'.
Learn more about the tests which may be involved in the diagnosis of RLQ pain.
How will it be treated?
This will be entirely dependent on the cause. Once your doctor has worked this out, they can discuss the options with you.
Learn about the treatment for some of the common causes of RLQ pain.
Further reading and references
Cartwright SL, Knudson MP; Evaluation of acute abdominal pain in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Apr 177(7):971-8.
Kim JS; Acute Abdominal Pain in Children. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2013 Dec16(4):219-224. Epub 2013 Dec 31.
Cartwright SL, Knudson MP; Diagnostic imaging of acute abdominal pain in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2015 Apr 191(7):452-9.
Manterola C, Vial M, Moraga J, et al; Analgesia in patients with acute abdominal pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jan 19(1):CD005660. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005660.pub3.
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