Causes of Upper and Lower Left Side Pain on Abdomen

There can be many different causes for left side pain on abdomen. Be it IBS, food poisoning or kidney stones, see a doctor to get proper treatment.

If you draw an imaginary line on the center of the abdomen, you can describe left side abdominal pain as the pain occurs on the left side of the abdomen. Left side abdominal pain can be caused both by organs and structures on the left section of the abdomen as well as those located away from the abdomen. Females are more likely to suffer from pain on left side of abdomen simply because they have more organs in this area. Keep reading to learn more information about it if you suffer from this pain often or occasionally. 

Organs in the Left Side Abdomen

Organs in the Upper Left Side Abdomen

The organs found in the upper left side abdomen include the spleen, a portion of the bowel or large intestines, part of the pancreas, a portion of the stomach and the left kidney as well as the skin, muscles and left lower ribs that cover these organs. The heart can be found just above this location. You are also able to find a portion of the left edge of the liver, the top portion of the left ureter, the top of the left lung's behind and the left side's adrenal gland. The aorta can also be found on this side in cases when it is distended.

Organs in the Lower Left Side Abdomen

Several of the organs found in the lower left side abdomen are continuations of those found in the upper region although others are completely different. Here you can find the lower edge of the kidney on the left side, the left ureter, a portion of the large bowel, the sigmoid colon, and a portion from the urinary bladder, large blood vessels and nerves and in women, the left tube and ovary. This is of course all covered by muscles and skin, like in the upper left side abdomen.

It is important to note that just because a structure is not found within the abdomen does not mean that it cannot cause pain in this area.

Causes of Upper Left Side Abdominal Pain

1. Gastric Volvulus

Gastric volvulus is when the stomach twists on itself. This can occur when one side flips onto the other, either along the axis (axial volvulus) or when the upper part flips down (mesentero-axial volvulus). One person may experience a combination of both types of problems. It is rare but more common in adults than in children. In children, it makes up for 20% of the cases of volvulus and these happen within the first year of age. The symptoms are severe abdominal pain in the central upper abdomen and retching without vomiting. If the severe pain was not relieved on time, patient may begin vomiting blood.

2. Trapped Wind

A person suffering from trapped wind would feel mostly healthy but experience cramp-like abdominal pain, be bloated and have loud bowel noises. The best cure for this type of pain is to pass wind. Trapped wind is one of the most common causes of pain on left side of abdomen.

3. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

The Aorta is the major blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body. If this is distended and ruptures or leaks, it is called abdominal aortic aneurysm. This generally causes severe pain in the abdomen and even the back. For some, the pain will be localized to the left side of the abdomen. Someone suffering from an abdominal aortic aneurysm can suddenly collapse, or may have a drop in blood pressure and become cold and pale.

4. Bowel Cancer

Symptoms of bowel cancer include a change in bowel habits (increased constipation), weight loss, poor appetite and a feel of weakness. The symptoms would persist for several months. It will cause pain in the upper left abdomen when cancer affects the descending colon. It's important to bear in mind that weight loss, bowel habit changes and loss of appetite may be signs of illness such as ulcerative colitis, chronic constipation, IBS, Crohn's disease and celiac disease. It is highly recommended to seek a doctor's advice if you're experiencing any of the above.

5. Kidney Stones

Kidney stones in the left side of the abdomen can cause the strongest pain ever felt. It can also cause vomiting as well as a spreading of the pain from the loin to the groin. When there is a buildup of minerals, a stone can form down the kidney or in the ureter. The pain may be in the upper left abdomen when the stone is in this area. It may cause you to look for different positions to relieve yourself of the pain. The pain can also spread throughout the abdomen and even into the penis of some men.

6. Food Poisoning

Food poisoning will generally cause vomiting (either actual vomiting or the sensation of doing so) and may also include a fever. The pain may occur anywhere from one to 48 hours after consuming the food. It can occur from chemical contamination of food or poor quality food.

7. Kidney Infection

The symptoms of a kidney infection, also known as pyelonephritis, can include feeling unwell as well as being feverish and vomiting. Additionally, the pain will mostly occur in the abdomen (upper to lower). The pain tends to be localized in the back and lower abdomen. It can be diagnosed with a few simple tests from your doctor.

8. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis usually begins with pain in the central part of upper abdomen, above the belly button. When suffering from pancreatitis, the patient will feel pain which seems to start without any trigger. But, it is often triggered by alcohol intake several days before. It can start suddenly but will then get progressively worse. It most often starts above the belly button and progresses from there, depending on where in the pancreas the problem is occurring.

9. Pancreatic Cancer

Someone suffering from pancreatic cancer will also experience weight loss, change in bowel habits, jaundice, pale stools and a lack of appetite. When cancer is affecting the tail, head or body of the pancreas, there will be pain on left side of abdomen.

10. Pneumonia

Lower lobe pneumonia can cause left side abdominal pain in the form of a sharp or crushing sensation. They will also have fever and a cough which may be causing brown or yellow phlegm. Pneumonia is caused by an inflammation of the lower part of the lung and it can cause upper left abdomen pain.

11. Transverse Colon Volvulus

Transverse colon volvulus would produce dramatic abdominal pain. The other symptoms would be very similar to those of an intestinal obstruction. At the onset, it is often very painful. Rarely will it cause intestinal obstruction but when it does, it can be fatal quickly.

12. Other Causes

Some other causes of upper left side abdominal pain are malaria, accidents that involve the spleen, spleen infections, musculoskeletal pain and Henoch-Schönlein-purpura.

Causes of Lower Left Side Abdominal Pain

In addition to causing upper left side abdominal pain, several of the causes listed above (bowel cancer, abdominal aortic aneurysm, food poisoning, Henoch-Schonlein-purpura, kidney infections or stones, transverse color volvulus or trapped wind) can be the cause of lower left side abdominal pain. Below are more diseases that can cause the pain in this area. 

1. Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is the most common cause of pain in the lower part of abdomen. When experiencing diverticulitis, most of the pain will occur in the lower region of the abdomen and almost always on the left side. This generally occurs after age 60. It causes a chronic pain in the colon and is caused by pouches in the intestinal walls.

2. Bowel Obstruction

When experiencing bowel obstruction, the abdominal pain is in the form of cramping or gripping and is accompanied by the abdomen distending and vomiting. There may also be loud noises from the bowels called borborygmi. If the obstruction is on the left side, there will be abdomen pain on the lower left side. Depending on whether or not the obstruction is total, you may not even be able to pass gas.

3. Constipation

In addition to pain, constipation can lead to the lack of ability to pass feces normally, a feeling of being bloated and a lack of weight loss. Whether it's chronic or newly acquired constipation, it can cause pain on left side of abdomen.

4. Crohn's Disease

The symptoms of Crohn's Disease can be very similar to those of other causes. It is distinguished, however, by being a chronic problem. It is considered an inflammatory bowel disease. When it occurs, it affects the sigmoid colon or the descending colon, which can lead to pain in the lower left abdomen.

5. Ectopic Pregnancy

When a woman of child-bearing age complains of lower abdomen pain, this is generally the first reason of which a doctor thinks. When experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, a woman will usually experience dull to sharp pain and possible vaginal bleeding. It can also include a feeling of dizziness and is an urgent matter. It is the same as a tubal pregnancy and happens early enough that the woman generally doesn't even know she's pregnant.

6. Endometriosis

When experiencing endometriosis, the lower left side pain is normally concentrated on the left ovary, tube or the beginning of the large bowels. It is sometimes possible to feel a small swelling as well. It is caused by womb tissue that is normal being found outside of the womb. It can be difficult to diagnose as the pain is generally seen during menses.

7. Hernia

A hernia can cause symptoms of bowel obstruction as well as abdominal pain on the lower left side. It is caused by a portion of the bowel or gut pouching out through an opening in the wall that contains it. Hernias can be found other areas than the gut as well.

8. IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causes symptoms of abdominal cramps as well as gas and bloating, diarrhea, or leads to passing small hard stools. This is a disorder of the gut that gives structural problems as well as physical issues. It can cause the bowel movement to be any range from constipation through diarrhea.

9. Ovarian Cyst (Twist Or Rupture)

An ovarian cyst will cause a sudden pain that is localized on the portion of the womb in which the ovary can be found. This can also spread to the thighs. There is no fever and no change in appetite although the pain can be anywhere from moderate to severe. Not having a fever and the suddenness of the pain will set an ovarian cyst apart from appendicitis.

10. Psoas Abscess

In addition to lower abdominal pain, psoas abscess can also cause a poor appetite, weight loss, swelling and night sweats. This occurs when there is an infection in the kidney that affects the lower part of the abdomen. When pus collects, it can cause pain and swelling.

11. Rectus Sheath Haematoma

Rectus sheath haematoma can cause a mass that causes considerable pain. When it occurs on the left side of the body, it causes lower abdominal pain. It happens when a blood vessel in the groin moves to the abdomen and damaged. The blood then travels under the muscle along the abdomen, causing pain.

12. Sigmoid Volvulus

The pain caused by sigmoid volvulus is sudden in nature. It can be frequently accompanied by the lack of ability to open the bowels as well as a greatly distended stomach. It tends to afflict the elderly and happens from the large bowel (sigmoid) twisting upon itself which will cause an obstruction. It can present as a noticeably distended stomach.

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