If you’re experiencing acute pain in the left side of your belly, you’re not alone. Usually, pain in this area is no cause for concern – it may be due to gas pain or indigestion. However, acute or intense pain should not be ignored because the pain might be due to a severe situation, as in the case of an organ rupture.
Location, Location, Location
If the pain is mostly isolated in the upper part of the abdomen, it could be caused by strain in the stomach or kidney (e.g., gastritis, indigestion, kidney stones). If the pain is in the lower left abdomen, it may be due to colon disorders (e.g., diverticulitis, colitis, inguinal hernia), gynecologic disorders (e.g., ovarian cysts or endometriosis) or testicular disorders (e.g., testicular torsion).
Pain in upper(left) abdomen
The pain that you are feeling on the top left of your stomach is generally not isolated to that particular area.
Gastritis is the inflammation of the stomach lining. It may be due to an infection, regular use of pain relievers, or drinking too much alcohol. Symptoms may happen suddenly (acute gastritis) or occur slowly (chronic gastritis). Gastritis may sometimes lead to ulcers. Gastritis and ulcers typically present with deep, gnawing pain on the left side of the abdomen that may worsen at night and then improve after eating. Early diagnosis of gastritis is vital since treatment is beneficial if started early.
We all know the feeling of discomfort after eating. The pain, bloating, belching, and a burning sensation is due to indigestion, which is clinically known as dyspepsia. Your stomach makes acid when you eat. The buildup of acid can irritate your esophagus, bowel, or stomach. The pain is typically felt in the upper part of the abdomen but may radiate to the lower abdomen.
Indigestion may result from underlying issues with diet, anxiety, reaction to medications, pregnancy, or disease. The best way to treat indigestion is by monitoring and adapting your diet.
Kidney stones are formed when fragments of calcium deposits buildup in either the right or left kidney. You start feeling severe pain in the side and back when the kidney stone moves around inside your kidney or enter into your ureter (the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder). The pain intensity may also fluctuate from one moment to the next, as the stone moves through your urinary tract.
You’ll likely also notice changes in your urination such as discoloration, a foul smell, or a persistent need to empty the bladder.
The best way to prevent and overcome kidney stones is to stay well-hydrated.
Pain in the lower left abdomen
Diverticulitis commonly causes persistent pain to the lower left side of the stomach. It is a condition in which small pouches (diverticula) form pressure at weak areas in the wall of the colon. When a pouch tear, inflammation, and infection can cause diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis is common in older adults, occurring in about half of people between 60 and 80 years old (1). As you age, the number of diverticula increases, making it more likely to tear or swell.
Diverticulitis pain tends to intensify while a person is eating or shortly after a meal.
Diverticulitis often occurs when diverticula become inflamed or infected. Aside from left side abdominal pain, other symptoms include tenderness in the abdomen, fever, nausea, vomiting, cramps, constipation, and feeling bloated.
Diverticulitis is usually diagnosed with a CT scan of the abdomen.
How to prevent diverticulitis:
- Eat foods rich in fiber (e.g. vegetables, whole grains, and fruits) or take a fiber supplement(1)
- Avoid eating nuts, popcorn, and seeds (1)
Many cases of mild diverticulitis are treated at home with antibiotics and a few days of a liquid diet (1). You may need to be addressed in the hospital if your symptoms are severe. Treatment in the hospital might include intravenous antibiotics, bowel rest (no eating or drinking, or surgery) (1). Surgery might be needed if you have diverticular bleeding that does not stop on its own or recurrent episodes of diverticulitis.
While the abdominal pain associated with diverticulitis is often acute, the symptoms of colitis appear more gradually. Also, colitis tends to coexist diarrhea, which may sometimes be bloody. It can also cause fever and unexplained weight loss. Colitis is often caused by infections (e.g., from food poisoning), restricted blood supply, and autoimmune reactions.
There are also different types of colitis, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
A randomized controlled trial suggested that patients with colitis report a reduction of chronic abdominal pain upon receiving transcranial direct current stimulation. This result indicates that transcranial direct current stimulation may be a useful and clinically relevant therapeutic strategy for colitis (2).
Lower Left Abdominal Pain that affects WOMEN
- Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea).Cramps usually occur before and during the menstrual period. Menstrual cramps typically aren’t severe.
- This refers to the condition whereby the tissue that lines the wall of your uterus also grows outside of the uterus. This can lead to infertility.
- Ovarian cyst and ovarian torsion. An ovarian cyst is a sac in the ovary that is filled with fluid. If the pain is sharp, accompanied by fever or rapid breathing, you may have a ruptured cyst or ovarian torsion. You need immediate treatment if you have either a ruptured cyst or ovarian torsion. Ovarian torsion is the painful twisting of the ovaries that occurs when the large ovarian cysts cause the ovary to change position.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection and inflammation of the women’s pelvic organs. It’s commonly caused by untreated sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. Women under the age of 25 who are sexually active are most susceptible to PID.
Lower left abdominal pain that affects MEN
- An inguinal hernia is the most common type of hernia; it happens when the fat, small intestine, or bladder pushes through the abdominal wall or the groin. It is much less common in women compared to men.
- Testicular torsion. Rotation of the testicle restricts blood flow and causes severe pain.
Other common causes of left side abdominal pain
You might have a buildup of gas throughout your digestive tract, from your stomach to your rectum. This is a regular occurrence.
The gas buildup can be caused by:
- Swallowing more air than usual (e.g., from chewing gum or eating/drinking too fast)
- Certain gas-inducing foods
People with certain conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, or lactose intolerance are also more likely to experience gas.
Typically, gas is nothing to worry about. Gas trapped in the digestive tract can cause pain and discomfort until it passes through either the rectum or the esophagus.
PULLED OR STRAINED ABDOMINAL MUSCLE
Overstretching or overexercising can strain an abdominal muscle. It will feel like an acute pain and cramp that could also involve swelling, spasms, or bruising. Rest and apply a cold pack on your stomach for comfort.
Herniation occurs when an organ pushes through the abdominal wall, causing intense pain. Aside from bulge, the most apparent symptoms of a hernia include a dull aching sensation, pain when lifting objects, and a feeling of fullness.
Different types of hernia present with different symptoms. For example, hiatal hernias don’t usually produce a bulge.
Because certain types of hernias can cause serious problems, you should consult your doctor if you suspect that you may have one.
ABNORMAL AORTIC ANEURYSM (AAA)
The aorta is a primary blood vessel. Aneurysm of the abdominal aorta means a wall of the aorta in the stomach is bulging, and it often grows slowly without symptoms. As abdominal aorta enlarges, you may notice a pulsating feeling near your navel, deep constant pain in or around the abdomen, or back pain. A burst in the abdominal aorta is life-threatening. If you have any of these symptoms, see your physician immediately.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
See a doctor whenever the pain is unexplainable or is accompanied by additional symptoms.
Talk to your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:
- Persistent pain
- Unintentional weight loss
- Blood in stool
Treatment for constipation and gas often includes diet modification and the use of laxatives.
Treatment for food intolerances, such as lactose or gluten intolerance, often involves abstaining that food from the diet.
Left side abdominal pain due to an infection, such as diverticulitis, will often only require antibiotics and resting as treatment.
Other, more anatomical problems, such as a hernia or an intestinal obstruction, may require surgery.