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Health Inset > Health and Fitness > Pain under right rib cage

Pain under right rib cage

Pain under right rib cage is a debilitating condition which affects many people and usually arises due to some serious health issue. Get to know in detail about the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

Pain under right rib cage Definition

This is a common condition that is mainly associated with gastrointestinal disorders or a severe trauma. The rib cage consists of 12 pairs of long curved bones known as ribs and sternum (breastbone) that surround the chest cavity. The major function of this structure is to protect the heart and lungs. It also provides a chamber for the lungs to expand during respiration. In this condition, the pain usually arises in the right side of the lower rib cage.

Pain under right rib cage Symptoms

The intensity of the pain underneath the right rib cage may range from mild to severe. It often tends to radiate through the upper and middle back. The ache may last only for a few minutes or a longer period of time. Deep breathing, coughing, sneezing or running may aggravate the condition and cause acute discomfort.

Pain under right rib cage Causes

Some of the possible causes of the condition are:

Picture of Pain under right rib cage

Picture 1 - Pain under right rib cage

Gall bladder disease

It is characterized by severe inflammation of the gall bladder, mainly due to the deposition of gall stones. Gall stones are typically deposits of cholesterol, bile salts and calcium that slowly develop in the gall bladder. Individuals suffering from this gall bladder condition may experience sharp pain under the right rib cage and in the upper right abdomen.

Irritable bowel syndrome

It is symptom-based disorder characterized by upper abdominal pain, diarrhea, cramping and alternation of bowel movements. It is a result of acute stress as well as hypersensitivity of the colon to certain types of food. In some cases, anal or rectal lesions may cause discomfort in the right section of the rib cage.

Liver damage

Aches underneath the right rib cage could be a serious consequence of a hepatic disorder or infection that leads to inflammation of the liver. Regular intake of alcohol or a viral attack may also cause liver failure.

Crohn’s disease

It is a type of inflammatory bowel disorder that affects any gastrointestinal tract section and is often caused by some infectious agents. Bowel obstruction can lead to the formation of inflammatory lesions along the wall of the digestive tract. The primary symptoms of this condition involve abdominal pain, vomiting as well as pain under the right rib cage.

Ulcers

Intestinal ulcers are open sores that are responsible for causing abdominal bleeding as a result of infection by H. pylori bacteria and use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Peptic ulcer is a common condition that affects the duodenum. Perforated ulcers are more detrimental to the abdomen and may require immediate surgery. The continuous swelling and scarring of the abdominal tissues could also give rise to pain in the lower sections of the rib cage.

Costochondritis

It is an inflammation of the junctions where the upper ribs joins with the costal cartilage in order to hold the sternum. The condition could lead to localized chest pain on the right side. Upper respiratory ailments, fibromyalgia, infection, physical strain or injury are some of the causes of this condition. The degree of discomfort is higher when affected patients cough or breathe spontaneously.

Liver cancer

It is one of the most common forms of cancer originating in the liver. Malignant tumors may develop on the surface or inside the liver. Symptoms of this fatal condition may include jaundice, fever, abdominal swelling, weight loss, and acute pain under the right rib area.

Injury or fracture

A break or fracture in one or more bones of the rib cage can occur either due to a direct trauma or sustained sports injuries. Pathological fractures, normally caused by some bone disorder such as osteoporosis, may also occur. This causes pain underneath the rib cage that frequently leads to reduced movement and suppression of breathing.

Pain under right rib cage Diagnosis

Diagnosis for this condition generally aims at determining its actual cause. The diagnostic tests typically conducted for this disease include:

Imaging Studies

Gall stones, changes in bowel movements, stomach ulcers, inflammation of the costal cartilage and rib fractures can be easily detected by using the following imaging techniques:

  • Ultrasound
  • X-rays
  • CT
  • MRI

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

This technique combines the use of endoscopy and fluoroscopy to spot gallstones or any abnormality in the bile duct of the gallbladder.

Blood test

A high white blood cell (WBC) count and increased bilirubin level can reveal the presence of a dysfunctional gallbladder. An abnormal level of protein, albumin, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and bilirubin indicates a liver malfunction. Crohn’s disease can also be evaluated by a simple blood test that normally reveals an elevated level of white blood cells due to some infection. Patients suffering from this condition may also exhibit low count of red blood cells (RBCs), proteins and minerals. Presence of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) antibodies in the blood confirms the existence of peptic ulcers.

Urine test

Increased levels of chemicals like amylase generally reveal some form of anomaly in the gall bladder. Patients with liver diorders may show higher than normal levels of bilirubin in urine.

Stool test

This test determines the presence of H. pylori antigens in stool as a cause of peptic ulcer.

Barium X-ray studies

The severity of Crohn’s disease can be determined with the help of this method. Affected patients are made to drink a type of chalky-colored liquid containing barium. This is followed by an X-ray examination of their abdomen. The images obtained after completion of the test shows ulcerations and narrowing of the bowel.

Liver biopsy

In this procedure, a small sample of liver tissue is obtained by inserting a long thin needle into the liver through the chest wall. It is then examined under a microscope for any signs of damage or abnormality. In some cases, the test is conducted along with endoscopy.

Pain under right rib cage Treatment

Normally, no specific treatment is used for this condition. Physicians usually recommend an appropriate therapeutic procedure depending on the underlying cause. Mild conditions can be cured with the aid of painkillers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. However, in case of a very severe pain the following techniques can be assistive in alleviating the condition:

Image of Pain under right rib cage

Picture 2 – Pain under right rib cage Image

Surgery

A damaged gall bladder is often surgically removed by a procedure called Cholecystectomy. Affected patients generally recover after a few days of hospitalization. In case of a flail chest, surgery is required on an immediate basis. In an operative treatment, a segment of the rib cage is broken and detached from the rest of the chest wall.

Liver transplantation

In case of liver cancer or failure, replacement of the diseased liver with a healthy one is the most effective way of treating this sort of persistent pain under the right rib cage.

Recurrent pain underneath the right rib cage should not be ignored and must be examined instantly. Any further delay in diagnosis could lead to an array of serious health complications. It is essential to use proper medical care for this disorder. Otherwise, the condition can slowly spread to other regions of the body.

References:

http://www.clinictime.net/Pain-Under-Right-Rib-Cage.html

http://www.healingwell.com

http://www.abdomen-pain.com/pain-under-right-rib-cage/

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/pain-under-right-rib-cage.html

By   Last updated August 13th, 2012

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