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What Causes Right Side Aches?

By T. Broderick
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are a number of medical conditions that cause chronic right side aches. Even so, medical diagnosis is not difficult as each condition presents with a different set of complementary symptoms. As some conditions only affect women, diagnosis becomes even less complicated. Though most of the causes of right side aches are treatable, seeing a doctor as soon as possible is necessary to prevent complications or death.

Appendicitis is a common cause of right side aches. In this condition a bacterial infection attacks the appendix causing swelling and inflammation. Pain usually presents without warning and is accompanied by fever and vomiting. Along with pain management medication, the primary treatment is surgical removal of the appendix, a procedure known as an appendectomy.

Pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed. Unlike appendicitis, the cause is not bacterial. Acute pancreatitis is due to gallstones, another common cause of right side aches. Excessive consumption of alcohol causes chronic pancreatitis. Both forms of the condition are treatable through medication and lifestyle changes. Due to the sometimes severe pain, a doctor may prescribe morphine as a patient undergoes treatment.

Crohn's disease, also known as inflammatory bowl disease, is a rarer condition that includes right side aches as a symptom. An autoimmune disorder, the body's immune system attacks parts of the stomach, small intestine and large intestine. Besides pain, Crohn's presents with intestinal ulcers, diarrhea and even external symptoms such as swelling of the extremities. The disease is not curable, but medication can lower the likelihood of relapse.

Ectopic pregnancy is a cause of right side aches that only affects women. An ectopic pregnancy is a failed pregnancy where the developing embryo is caught within the fallopian tube as it travels to the uterus. As the embryo grows past the natural limits of the fallopian tube, a woman feels pain similar to pancreatitis. An ultrasound can quickly diagnose an ectopic pregnancy. As an ectopic pregnancy has no chance of success, treatment requires a surgically performed abortion.

All of these conditions are treatable, but every one can lead to serious complications or death if a person does not immediately seek medical attention. For example, if the appendix bursts during appendicitis, other abdominal organs become vulnerable to infection. Untreated pancreatitis can lead to necrosis of the pancreas, necessitating the pancreas' removal. A patient will be dependent on insulin injections for the rest of his or her life. Ectopic pregnancy becomes life threatening when the fallopian tube ruptures and causes internal bleeding.

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