Left sided abdominal pain is a very troublesome condition that affects many people the world over. Read and know all about the main causes of pain in the left abdominal region.
What is Left Abdominal Pain?
It is defined as pain that is experienced in the abdomen, particularly to the left of the middle stomach region just under the chest. The pain radiates through the belly button (umbilicus) and goes down to the upper area of the genitalia.
Left side abdominal pain, as a cause of abdominal pain, is frequently more common in young adults and women.
Types of Left Abdominal Pain
Pain in the left abdominal region has been differentiated into two types:
Upper left side abdominal pain
The pain is experienced on the left abdomen area, higher up the level of the umbilicus.
Lower left side abdominal pain
The pain arises on the left abdominal region, under the level of the umbilicus (belly button).
What Causes Left Abdominal Pain?
Some of the common causes of left abdominal pain are:
It is one of the most common causes of pain in the left abdominal area. Appendicitis develops due to inflammation and consequent enlargement of the Vermiform Appendix. Generally, pain caused by Appendicitis arises near the umbilicus (belly button) and radiates to the left abdominal area. Appendicitis often begins with comparatively modest symptoms and heightens in severity as the day progresses. An infected appendix can break open in the absence of treatment, thereby resulting in serious complications.
In some cases, left abdominal pain may be caused due to an Inguinal Hernia. These hernias often develop when the abdominal cavity of individuals suffer from excessive stress due to activities like pulling, pushing or lifting very heavy items.
Inguinal Hernia is usually diagnosed when an intestinal part forces its way through a rupture of the lower abdominal wall. Such a hernia is often painful and is characterized by a prominent bulge that is most evident while the patient is bending or coughing. In most cases, a surgical operation is needed for complete removal of an inguinal hernia.
The condition is also commonly caused by kidney infection, which generally results from an uncured urinary tract infection. A kidney infection, though relatively minor in appearance, can cause serious life-risk when left untreated. Individuals who experience pain while passing urine or suffer from a heightened need of urination along with painful symptoms in the left abdominal region should seek immediate medical assistance.
Some other Left Abdominal Pain causes include
- Bowel problems
- Bowel tumour
- Coelic disease
- Crohns disease
- Hereditary Angioedema
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Infectious mononucleosis
- Kidney stone
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Pulmoanry embolism (blood clots in lungs)
- POEMS syndrome
- Rupture of the spleen
- Spleen Pain Syndrome
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Stomach ulcer
- Stomach tumour
- Twisted or Ruptured ovarian cyst
- Typhoid fever
- Ulcerative Colitis
Causes of Upper Left Abdominal Pain
Some of the main causes of pain in the upper left region of the abdomen are:
Upper left side abdominal pain often results from consumption of contaminated or infected food. In such cases, pain may arise anywhere from 2-6 hours of infected food intake. Abdominal ache is accompanied by other discomforting symptoms like vomiting and often fever.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
A ruptured or leaking Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) develops if the large blood vessel (aorta) transporting blood away from the heart gets distended during its course in the abdomen and suddenly begins leaking or suffers a rupture. This usually gives rise to acute pain in the central abdominal area. Later, pain also spreads to the back. AAA patients may suffer from rapid drop in blood pressure and turn cold and pale. They can also suffer a sudden collapse. In some cases, the pain may be experienced further towards the left abdominal side, thereby giving rise to upper left abdominal pain.
The presence of stones anywhere down the ureters or kidney produces excessive pain. The pain is generally quite strong and is described as the most acute pain that one can experience. It can be one of the major causes of upper left quadrant abdominal pain.
Causes of Left Lower Abdominal Pain
Some of the main causes of left sided lower abdominal pain are:
Lower left abdominal pain may arise due to chronic constipation or even the onset of a new case of constipation. If the left area of the bowel is found to be more affected, it will naturally be a cause of lower left-sided stomach pain. It will be displayed in the form of symptoms like difficult excretion and bloated feeling.
It is characterized by the presence of normal womb tissue external to the womb. The pain is generally worse on the side that has the menses. Patients may also be able to experience a soft inflamed bulge on the affected side. This condition is usually difficult to diagnose.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
This is a disorder of the function of the guts, without any apparent structural or physical problem. The condition is marked by highly discomforting symptoms, such as
- Abdominal cramps
- Abdominal pain
- Excretion of small hard stools
Both upper and lower left abdominal pain can also result from cancerous conditions of vital organs like stomach, gallbladder, liver, kidney and pancreas.
Causes of Lower Left Abdominal Pain in Females
Some of the main lower left sided abdominal pain causes include:
An ectopic pregnancy is a common cause for the development of this condition in women. The condition is detected during the fertilization of an egg in the fallopian tubes. The cause of ectopic pregnancies is still unclear. However, it is generally supposed to result from damage to other components of the reproductive system of women. This type of damage often occurs in women who have been patients of untreated sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the past.
An ectopic pregnancy may result in the loss of the fertilized egg, resulting in acute left abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding and pelvic cramping.
Rupture or Twisting of the Ovarian Cyst
Twisting or rupture of the ovarian cyst usually gives rise to a sudden pain. Pain is generally localized to the side of the womb that contains the ovary. Generally, it also spreads towards the thighs and may range from mild to severe in intensity.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
It is an infection of the fallopian tubes and the womb. It generally results from spread of sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea and is common in people who have multiple sexual partners. PID is a very common cause of lower abdominal pain in women who are sexually active.
If you are experiencing persistent left abdominal pain, immediately get in touch with a medical professional. Early diagnosis will help in identification of the causative condition and its immediate treatment, leading to a faster recovery.
Written by Dr Praveen Sivaraman
on May 4th, 2010. The article was last updated on September 26th, 2011