The lower left of the abdomen is home to the final part of the colon. In some women, it may also be home to the left ovary. Pain in the lower left abdomen area is often no cause for concern. However, it is still not something you should ignore.
Cause of pain specific to the lower left abdomen
Diverticulitis can cause persistent pain specific to the lower left side of the abdomen. It occurs when there is an infection or inflammation in the diverticula (small pouches) that form in the wall of the large intestine (colon) following a tear.
Aside from constant or severe pain on the lower left abdomen, other symptoms include:
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tenderness in the abdomen
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Bloody stool
- Bleeding from rectum
- Frequent urination
Symptoms of diverticulitis can appear suddenly, or they can develop gradually over several days. The pain tends to intensify while you eat or shortly after a meal.
For mild diverticulitis, you should respond well to rest, antibiotics, and diet modification. However, you may need surgery if the condition continues to persist or causes a severe complication.
Other causes of lower abdominal pain
The following conditions may cause pain on either side of the lower abdomen, i.e., including the left side.
Gas is often in your digestive tract as a consequence of swallowing air while eating, as well as through the natural digestion process. The gas that is trapped in the gastrointestinal tract can cause pain and discomfort until it moves out of the system (passing gas or belching).
Causes of gas buildup include:
- Swallowing more air than usual
- Chewing gum
- Undigested foods
- Eating gas-producing foods
- Disruption of the bacteria in the colon
Typically, passing gas or belching is nothing to worry about.
Constipation occurs when you have difficulty passing stool. It is often due to poor diet or a lack of exercise.
Symptoms of constipation:
- Straining when passing stool
- A lumpy or hard stool
- Less than three bowel movements per week
- Feeling like the rectum is blocked or that not all the stool has passed
Improving diet and regular exercise can effectively prevent constipation.
A hernia occurs when a body part pushes through the muscle or tissue that holds it in place. The most common type is known as an inguinal hernia, which occurs when the intestines push through a weak spot or tear in the lower abdominal wall, often in the inguinal canal.
Common symptoms include:
- Bulge or lump
- Increasing pain at the site
- Pain when lifting
- A dull ache
- A feeling of fullness
You may feel the hernia when you touch it while you’re bending down, standing up, or coughing. The lump may disappear as you lie down.
Because hernias can cause additional complications, it is essential to see a doctor immediately.
A kidney stone is a buildup of calcium crystals that usually originate from the kidneys, but it can also develop anywhere along your urinary tract. It usually starts to cause problems when it moves around inside your kidney or migrates into your ureter.
Severe pain can be felt on one side of the abdomen or back. The intensity of the pain can come in waves and fluctuate from one moment to the next, as the stone moves down the ureter. This debilitating pain is termed “renal colic.” People with renal colic tend to be restless.
- Urine that is red, pink, brown, cloudy, or smelly
- Painful or frequent urination
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fever or chills
A small stone may migrate through the urinary tract without any symptoms, but they can also cause extreme pain as they leave the body.
Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune problem that occurs due to hypersensitivity to gliadin, a gluten protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats. As a result of the hypersensitivity, your immune system attacks and destroys the inner lining of the small intestine, causing malabsorption of minerals and nutrients.
Symptoms of celiac disease include:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Pressure and gas
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Weight loss
- Chronic diarrhea
- Foul-smelling stools with excess fat in them
- Bone and joint pain
- Depression, irritability, and panic attacks
- Weakness and fatigue
- Easy bruising and nose bleeds
- Fluid retention
- Persistent hunger
Children with an undiagnosed celiac disorder may also suffer from malnourishment and growth impairments as a result of the condition.
Lactose intolerance refers to the inability to metabolize lactose in milk and milk-based products, such as cheese and yogurt. This is due to a deficiency in the lactase enzyme, which breaks down lactose in milk.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance include:
- Loose stool or diarrhea
- Pain in the abdomen
- Gas pain
- A growling or rumbling stomach
You may have a sudden urge to use the bathroom within 2 hours of consuming lactose. In severe cases, dehydration may occur.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that a doctor may only recognize once they have eliminated other probable causes of your abdominal pain.
The most common symptoms of IBS include:
- Persistent discomfort
- Irregular bowel habits
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- A sensation that bowel is not emptied after using the bathroom
- Mucus in stool
- Swelling or bloating of the abdomen
- A sudden or urgent need to use the bathroom
- Alternating diarrhea and constipation
Symptoms often worsen after eating. An IBS flare-up may persist for 2 to 4 days, and then symptoms may either improve or dissipate entirely. Most people will not experience severe complications.
Inflammatory bowel diseases
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a cluster of disorders that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract. There are two types: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Crohn’s disease usually occurs within the small intestine. It triggers inflammation of the small intestine wall. It may spread deep into all the layers of the small intestine as well as anywhere along the gut. It can be painful, debilitating, and, sometimes, life-threatening.
Ulcerative colitis usually occurs in the colon (large intestine) and rectum. Inflammation and sores may form in the innermost lining of your colon and rectum.
Causes that affect WOMEN only
Some causes of lower abdomen pain only affect women. The pain may develop on either side, including the left side of the abdomen.
Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea)
Painful menstruation cramps, otherwise known as dysmenorrhea, can be classified into either primary or secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea occurs before or during menstrual periods. On the other hand, secondary dysmenorrhea occurs when you’ve had regular periods that become painful later in life, due to underlying conditions such as uterine fibroids and endometriosis.
The pain may range from a minor annoyance to a debilitating pain that interferes with your daily activities. Nevertheless, menstrual cramps usually aren’t severe.
Endometriosis occurs when the endometrial tissue that typically lines the inside of your uterus also grows outside of the uterus. The misplaced endometrial tissue will continue to grow, thicken, and break down. Over time, the tissue becomes trapped in your pelvis.
Common symptoms include:
- Pelvic pain
- Painful menstrual cramps
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Spotting between periods
- Pain with sexual intercourse
- Painful bowel movements or urination
- Lower back pain
Some women experience mild symptoms, while others have moderate-to-severe symptoms. The severity of the pain doesn’t indicate the stage or degree of the condition. You may have a mild form of endometriosis yet experience agonizing pain. Likewise, it’s also possible to have a severe form of endometriosis but experience minimal discomfort.
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac in or on the surface of the ovary. In most cases, cysts are painless and don’t produce symptoms unless they grow larger. A large cyst can cause discomfort, especially when it presses on your bladder and cause frequent urination.
- Painful bowel movements
- Abdominal bloating or swelling
- Pelvic pain before or during menstruation
- Pain in the lower back or thighs
- Painful intercourse
- Nausea and vomiting
- Breast tenderness
The rupture of an ovarian cyst can cause some severe problems, such as severe pain or internal bleeding.
Large ovarian cysts may alter the orientation of the ovary, thereby exacerbating the risk of ovarian torsion. Ovarian torsion is the painful twisting of the ovary that could cut off the blood supply. The fallopian tubes may also be affected. It usually happens during a woman’s reproductive years.
Consult your doctor if you experience a sudden severe pain in your abdomen accompanied by vomiting. Surgery is often required to untwist the ovary or remove it.
With an ectopic pregnancy, a fertilized egg implants itself before it reaches the uterus. This usually happens inside the fallopian tube, abdominal cavity, or cervix.
- Abdominal pain
- A missed period and other pregnancy signs
- Vaginal bleeding
- Watery discharge
- Discomfort with urination or bowel movements
- Shoulder tip pain
- Breast soreness
An ectopic pregnancy that ruptures is severe and requires surgery to repair the fallopian tube. Get immediate medical attention if you are:
- Feeling sick or dizzy
- Feeling faint
- Have an ashen complexion
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organ. PID is commonly caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Vaginal discharge with a bad odor
- Pain and bleeding during sex
- A burning sensation with urination
- Bleeding between periods
PID can be extremely dangerous, even life-threatening, if the infection spreads to your blood. If you suspect that you have a PID infection, see your doctor immediately.
Causes that affect MEN only
Some causes of lower abdominal pain only affect men. The pain may develop on either side, including the left side of the abdomen.
An inguinal hernia occurs when fat or a portion of the small intestine pushes through a weak spot in a man’s lower abdomen, often in the inguinal canal near the groin area.
In testicular torsion, the testicle rotates, obstructing the blood flow to the testicles. As a result, you could experience severe pain and swelling in the area.
- Sudden, severe scrotum pain and swelling
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Painful urination
Testicular torsion can happen in any male, but it occurs most often in boys aged 12 to 16. It is a severe condition. Get medical help immediately.
When to see your doctor
People experiencing chronic or persistent pain in the lower left abdomen should seek medical attention. Similarly, a sudden onset of pain may also require immediate care.
Also, talk to your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Unintentional weight loss
- Blood in the stool
- Severe tenderness in the affected area
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Yellow skin (jaundice)
A doctor can run diagnostic tests to identify the underlying cause and curate a treatment plan accordingly.
In many cases, you are not likely to experience any lasting effects from lower left abdominal pain. If a chronic condition causes the pain, your doctor can help you identify a course of treatments to improve your symptoms in the long-term.