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Understanding the causes of Lower Left abdominal Pain


Lower left abdominal pain can be caused by something as simple as constipation, muscle pain or an irritable bowel syndrome; and can also be caused by more serious factors like kidney stones, dicerticular syndrome and a kidney infection to name a few. As the name itself suggests, lower left abdominal pain is any pain experienced below the chest and through the belly button, across the left side of an imaginary line draw through the belly button.

Lower left abdominal pain is characterized by any pain that extends downwards, starting at the belly button and going in to the left side of the abdomen. Pain can be caused by stress of skin and muscles in the region, infections and even serious disorders. But to under lower left abdominal pain more, you need to have a better understanding of the organs situated in this area to determine whether you have a reason for worry or not. The following list of structures lies on the left abdominal region and could be the cause for your pain:

  • Spleen
  • Left edge of liver
  • Pancreas
  • Stomach
  • Left kidney
  • Colon
  • Half of the large intestine
  • Left Ureter
  • Left ovary and fallopian tube in a woman
  • Left adrenal gland
  • Nerves in the left side
  • Skin covering the left abdomen
  • Blood vessel running across the left abdomen
  • Muscle lining in the left abdomen
  • Part of aorta
  • Part of urinary bladder

These are the organs on your left side in the abdominal region that can be causing the pain. However, sometimes the pain can be caused by abnormalities in the functioning of other organs like the lungs, heart and diaphragm, and you might be experiencing the pain in the left abdomen region as a warning sign. Also, in a condition known as Situs Invertus, some structures like the appendix can exist on the left side instead of right and can be the cause for pain. It has been noted that lower left abdominal pain is more common amongst the elderly and women. The causes for pain are short listed based on sex and age, so that doctors can home on to an early diagnosis.

Let us take a look at some diseases that can be the reason for your lower left abdominal pain. These are only the more commonly occurring diseases and conditions, and it is not at all recommended to self diagnose or self medicate yourself in case of such a pain. If the pain is acute or is persistent, seek medical help immediately.

Causes for lower left abdominal pain:

1.       Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm –
If the aorta becomes distended along the course, leaking or rupture can give rise to abdominal aortic aneurysm. Ordinarily, it causes a severe unbearable pain in the central abdominal region, but the pain can be felt on the left side of the vessel is distended in the left region. The patient can collapse suddenly and experience a sudden drop in blood pressure. This can happen without warning, and requires immediate medical attention.

2.       Bowel Cancer –
Cancer in the left part of the bowel region can cause lower left abdominal pain. The symptoms are clear – weight loss, constipation, change in bowel movements, fatigue and poor appetite. Since the pain is not very acute, many people tend to ignore it for months. This is why, it is very important to seek medical help if your lower left abdominal pain is persistent. The very same symptoms could also mean that you have ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or chronic constipation, but even then seeking a doctor’s advice and going through tests to diagnose the problem timely is the best choice.

3.       Bowel Obstruction –
If bowel obstruction is in the lower left region, it can be the cause for lower left abdominal pain. Such a pain will be accompanied by cramping and griping with nausea and sometimes even vomiting. If the bowel makes funny loud noises, chances are that the intestines have become distended. If the obstruction is total in nature, you will not pass feces or wind and be extremely uncomfortable. If the obstruction is partial, you will pass wind frequently and small amounts of feces. Treatment is determined by your doctor, depending on the percentage of obstruction.

4.       Constipation –
A simple condition, sometimes chronic constipation can cause lower left abdominal pain. This will be accompanied by the feeling bloated and uncomfortable, and a few simple changes in your diet and lifestyle can be every effective for treatment. Of constipation is the cause of your persistent lower left abdominal pain, add more fiber to your diet and include foods and herbs that aid in proper digestion.

5.       Crohn’s Disease –
This is a disease that causes inflammation in the bowels and is a chronic problem that will cause lower left abdominal pain. The problem affects the descending colon or sometimes even the sigmoid colon. Sadly, there is no medical cure for Crohn’s disease and though anti-inflammatory drugs can help when episodes flare up, the best way to manage this disease is through prevention and remission.

6.       Ulcerative Colitis –
Together, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are termed as IBD or Intestinal Bowel Disorders, and both cause inflammation in the colon or large intestine. Both men and women are affected equally by this disease, which has no medical cure and can only be managed through prevention. Surgery is an option reserved for those who have very severe inflammation that can be life threatening if left unattended. This disease can start anytime in adolescent and continues through life, and causes acute lower left abdominal pain every time an episode flares up. Each episode can be accompanied by rectal bleeding, diarrhea and acute abdominal pains.

7.       Diverticulitis –
This is a very common disorder in the elderly that causes lower left abdominal pain. Sometimes, the pain can also occur on the right side, though that is far rarer. The disorder affects the sigmoid colon, by finger like outgrowths that project out of the bowel lining and this causes nagging pain. Mild episodes can be treated at home with simple home remedies and adding more fiber to diet, though in more severe cases the doctor will prescribe antibiotics.

8.       Food poisoning –
Sometimes, the cause for lower left abdominal pain is something as simple as food poisoning. This is more common after eating food outside that has been contaminated by a bug. The symptoms start to show within 2 hours, and vomiting, pain and fever are the tell tale signs that you have nothing more than food poisoning to worry about. Taking medication to control the vomiting and diarrhea and increasing fluid intake can bring immediate relief.

9.       Henoch – Schonlein Purpura –
This is a very rare disease causing lower left abdominal pain, where purple spots can be noticed on the skin along with kidney and joint problems. It is preceded by cold and flu and occurrence of a purple rash is not uncommon. It is seen more in children and affects more boys as compared to girls. 75% of the patients are between the ages of 2 and 11 and treatment consists of fluid therapy and keeping a close eye on renal complications.

10.   Hernia –
The gut can out-poach through an abnormal opening and cause bowel obstruction and this is called as hernia. It causes lower left abdominal pain and surgery is often the only treatment in severe cases. Until the doctor can operate upon you, he/she will push back the hernia and ask you to wear a special belt to keep the outgrowth from interfering in the functioning of other organs near the site.

11.   Irritable Bowel Syndrome –
An abnormality in the functioning of the gut can cause IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This can cause lower left abdominal pain along with cramping, bloating, gas and acidity and in some cases diarrhea as well. Your doctor will prescribe a special diet and some medication to bring immediate relief.

12.   Kidney Stone –
This is probably the most common cause for lower left abdominal pain and is equally prevalent in both men and women. If the stone (which is a solid formation of sediments and calcium) travels down the left ureter, the abdominal pains can become acute. The pain is usually always acute and comes without a warning, and comes in waves which make it unbearable. Immediate medical assistance is needed to find relief from pain and vomiting and sometimes the patient can also have a fever.

13.   Kidney Infection –
Infections in the left kidney are called Pyelonephritis and come under UTI in most cases. The pain is experienced in the lower left abdomen and is acute, sometimes traveling from the back to the front. The pain can be worse when urinating and can cause high fevers, mostly at night, and also cause vomiting, weight loss and a burning sensation when passing urine. The condition is easy to diagnose through a urine test, and an antibiotic course followed with high fluid intake will bring relief in most cases. To distinguish between kidney infection and kidney stone, the biggest tell tale sign is that the infection doesn’t cause acute pain to begin with but slowly worsens as you ignore the pain.

14.   Psoas Abscess –
A kidney infection can spread to the muscle floor of the lower left abdomen, causing severe pain. This is especially true if pus forms in the region, which is often seen in tuberculosis of the kidney and is accompanied by night sweats, loss in appetite and swelling. As the infection is treated through antibiotics, an added pain killer can bring relief.

15.   Rectus Sheath Hematoma –
A blood vessel that moves from the groin to the lower left abdomen is damaged, and the collected blood under the muscle lining causes severe lower left abdominal pain. A hard mass can be felt in the region, and immediate medical attention is needed.

16.   Sigmoid Volvulus –
Commonly seen in the elderly, an obstruction caused in the sigmoid colon due to twisting is the reason behind the lower left abdominal pain. The symptoms are a distended stomach and inability to open bowel along with severe pain. An X-ray is needed for diagnosis and the treatment is decided as per the condition.

17.   Transverse Colon Vovulus –
This occurs in the transverse colon and is fatal. The lower left abdominal pain comes without a warning and is very acute and though the disease is rare, it is reason enough why any acute lower left abdominal pain must not be ignored. The doctor will need X-rays and Ultrasounds in time to diagnose the condition and offer timely treatment.

18.   Lactose Intolerance –

If you notice lower left abdominal pain only after drinking milk or consuming a dairy product like curd, cream or ice-cream, you could simply be lactose intolerant. The trapped wind that is caused by your body’s inability to process dairy products can be the reason behind the pain. The pain is often dull accompanied by cramps and will subside within 24 hours. Avoid dairy products in the future.

Some other causes of lower left abdominal pain seen only in women can be ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cysts and endometriosis. So, there are a myriad of causes when it comes to lower left abdominal pain and the best way to catch the disorder or disease in time is to see a doctor immediately and be able to explain the symptoms correctly for timely diagnosis and treatment.