Health care practitioners refer to the abdomen as having 4 sections: upper left, upper right, lower left and lower right abdomen. Some physicians actually divide these quadrants into 9 areas for even more clear communication. Left side abdominal pain refers to pain in the upper left and lower left quadrants of abdomen.
Abdominal pains occur in the left side, right side or the entire abdomen. An average person experiences this pain at least once in a lifetime. Any pain in the abdomen is important, especially on the left side. Abdominal pain on left side can vary according to the cause. On some occasions it can be dull and at times it is a sharp pain. Some people experience a throbbing pain while for others it is cramp-like. Left side abdominal pain might be chronic and long-lasting. However, some people experience sudden and acute pain. Sometimes abdominal pains are accompanied by nausea or vomiting.
A pain in the abdomen should never be neglected as this may be a symptom of some other bigger problems. It can be linked to any one of many conditions that do not occur in the abdomen itself though they cause discomfort in abdomen. Some pains may be directly associated with gastrointestinal tract while other abdominal pains, like the one experienced with strep throat, are not directly associated with the digestive tract.
Left Side Abdominal Pain Causes
What causes left side abdominal pain?
To actually determine the origin of this kind of pain requires a thorough physical exam and interview by a trained medical professional and a careful assessment of the circumstances surrounding the situation. There are so many organs in the left side of your abdomen a disorder in any of them could result in left side abdominal pain.
- left part of liver; also see – pain in the liver
- left adrenal gland
- blood vessels, nerves, muscles and skin
- left kidney
- left half of large intestine
- left ureter
- sigmoid colon
- descending colon
- the pancreas
- left ovary and fallopian tube in women
Picture : Organs in the Abdomen (left and right)
These are the organs that can directly give an abdominal pain if any one of them has a disorder. In addition, other organs that are not found in the left abdomen may still generate abdominal pain. For instance, the lower left part of the lung, the heart or the left side of the diaphragm may be the source of the pain. In rare cases, the appendix is located on the left side instead of the right. That could result in left sided abdominal pain. This condition, called Situs Invertus, is uncommon and is not considered as a major cause for left abdominal pain.
Signs and Symptoms of Left Side Abdominal Pain
If you have symptoms of abdominal pain on your left side, they are often accompanied by signs of other illness. The actual cause for an abdominal pain can be determined only by carefully studying the other symptoms experienced in combination. Following is some basic information on common causes of abdominal pain on left side and the symptoms related with each condition:
- Heartburns – Though the heart isn’t situated in the left abdomen, heartburn can give you abdominal pain.
- Gastritis – An irritation or swelling on the stomach lining.
- Stomach ulcers
- Diverticulitis – The interior wall of colon swells at a certain point forming a pouch. This hampers the easy passage of food. The left side abdominal pain acts as an indicator along with nausea, constipation and bloating in some cases.
- Bowel Obstruction – The intestines are spread across the whole of abdomen. When bowel obstruction is serious, severe abdominal pain is observed. This obstruction causes constipation and pain. Not only that, but vomiting and stool that may be loose and watery or totally absent are accompanying signs.
- Kidney Stones – When a kidney stone moves from the left kidney you will experience sudden and severe left side abdominal pain. It usually starts as a sharp pain in your back but then migrates to the front. This condition needs immediate attention as it can give rise to infections and can be life-threatening. Also see – Pain in Kidneys
- Ulcerative Colitis – One of the most common causes of left side abdominal pain is ulcerative colitis . This is an inflammatory bowel condition. Sharp pain is felt in the lower left side of abdomen. Other signs include weight loss, loose stools, tiredness, sore muscles and blood in stools.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – This condition is observed only in women. The woman has dull and constant stomach pain on the left side. Fever is noticed. In some cases, pain may extend into the mid-abdomen. This condition can lead to further complications and shouldn’t be ignored.
- Hepatitis – A viral infection, hepatitis, results in a dull pain in the left abdomen. The eye whites turn pale yellow and skin shows signs of viral hepatitis infection. Dark tinted urine and nausea are additional symptoms. It can be distinguished from a bowel obstruction by the fact that it doesn’t abate even after meals. Timely medical help is needed as this is a dangerous and contagious disease. Avoid physical contact with others.
- Digestive Problems – Various digestive problems related to spleen, pancreas or the stomach itself can cause abdominal pain. A burning upper abdominal pain can indicate a bacterial infection caused due to Helicobacter pylori.
- Crohn’s disease – Crohn’s disease is seen in children and causes severe pain on the lower left part of the abdomen.
- Pernicious anemia
- Gallbladder disease resulting in a burning pain on left abdomen.
- Intestinal Parasites – Intestinal parasites result in abdominal pain. Knowledge of the patient’s recent activity may reveal exposure to potential parasites. Sometimes parasites do not show any symptoms for a long time.
- Gastroenteritis in children is often due to swallowing food without proper chewing. Even excessive use of spicy food can result in stomach ache followed by constipation.
Some other causes for abdominal pain on left side are menstrual cramping, pneumonia, hernia, uterine fibroids, stomach flu, endometriosis, food allergy, ovarian cysts, food poisoning, and colic.
Treating Abdominal Pain on Left Side
The identification of the cause for abdominal pain is necessary to decide on how to cure left side abdominal pain as there can be various reasons. Since there are so many organs located in the left side of abdomen, most of the times the specific reasons for abdominal pain aren’t found. Generally, left side abdominal pain treatment involves the use of pain killers that provide temporary short term relief.
To completely treat the abdominal pain, the cause should be identified and treated. Various diagnostic tests including X-rays, endoscopy, colonoscopy, barium enema, ultrasound, and blood, urine and stool tests are recommended to determine the associated illness that is the root cause of the left side abdominal pain. Sometimes a CT scan can be helpful, depending on the symptoms and circumstances presented.
When is Left Side Abdominal Pain Serious Enough To Go To The Doctor?
Sometimes a “tummy-ache” is just a bit of gas and does not require medical attention. So what signs should the average person be aware of that suggest this pain is more than a minor and temporary ache? If you or someone you know has these warning signs, do not hesitate to get to a doctor.
- Breathing is labored.
- Fever is present and persistent.
- Pain lasts for several days.
- Pain happens during pregnancy.
- Very tender abdomen to touch.
- Cannot eat or pass stools.
- Frequent urination, possibly painful.
- Vomiting blood.
- Pain is from a recent abdominal injury.