Pain on the left side of the abdomen is common, and most people will experience it at some point in their lives. There are many causes of pain in this area, ranging from very minor to extremely serious. Some resolve on their own, while others require medical intervention.
Gas or Indigestion
A common cause of left side of abdomen pain is gas or indigestion. Gas is a normal part of digestion and can be caused by eating foods that don’t agree with you. Normally, gas is expelled through burping or passing gas, but not always. If gas gets trapped inside the digestive system, it could lead to left-sided abdominal pain.
Another common cause of left side of the abdomen pain is constipation. Technically, constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements in a week, but this varies from person to person. The more time that passes between bowel movements, the harder it is for the stool to pass. Constipation is very common and sends about 2.5 million people to the doctor every year.
Gastroenteritis is often called the stomach flu and can cause pain on the left side of the abdomen. It also causes watery stools, cramping, nausea, vomiting, and a low-grade fever. Most bouts of gastroenteritis are caused by viruses. Symptoms usually resolve in a day or two, but they can persist for a week or longer and can be anywhere from mild to severe.
Urinary Tract Infections
Another cause of left side of the abdomen pain is urinary tract infections (UTI) or an infection in the urinary system.UTIs can affect the urethra, kidneys, or bladder. Left-sided abdominal pain is common with an infection that affects the left kidney. Urinary tract infections are very common, and one out of every five women gets one at some point in their lifetimes.
Kidney stones can also cause left-sided abdomen pain. These hard deposits of salts and minerals form inside the kidneys and pass into the ureters, where they can become stuck. Passing a kidney stone is extremely painful, but they generally do not cause complications after they pass. In some cases, they get stuck in the urinary tract, leading to a urinary tract infection. In these cases, they may need surgical removal.
Several gynecological conditions can cause the left side of the abdomen pain.
- Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled pockets in the ovary. They are common and most resolve on their own, though they may cause abdominal discomfort.
- Mittelschmerz or ovulation pain occurs midway through a woman’s menstrual cycle when the ovary releases an egg. It is normal and rarely requires medical intervention.
- Ectopic pregnancy is a more dangerous cause of left-sided abdominal pain and occurs when a fertilized egg implants into the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. This condition is life-threatening as it can cause the fallopian tube to rupture. Pelvic pain and light spotting or bleeding are other signs of an ectopic pregnancy.
Diverticulosis is when small pouches form and push through weak areas along the wall of the colon. Most people with this condition do not have any symptoms, but it can lead to pain in the abdomen and changes in bowel habits. It can also lead to complications, including bleeding and inflammation of these small pouches called diverticulitis.
Pancreatitis is the swelling or inflammation of the pancreas, which sits on the left side of the abdomen behind the stomach. Pancreatitis can cause left-sided abdominal pain as well as nausea, vomiting, fever, swelling in the upper left side of the abdomen, and jaundice. It can come on suddenly or be a chronic condition, and symptoms vary from person to person.
Crohn’s disease causes the left side of the abdomen pain, along with many other symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation, and bloody stool. Crohn’s disease often comes in cycles, flaring up and then going into remission for weeks or even years. About a half million people in the United States have Crohn’s disease, and it has become more common over time.
Most pain on the left side of the abdomen is not caused by colon cancer, but this type of pain is one of many symptoms of this form of cancer.Colon cancer occurs when abnormal growths in the abdomen turn into cancer. Some cases are asymptomatic, but other people experience persistent abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, bloody stool, constipation, and diarrhea. Getting regular screenings for colon cancer is important for early diagnosis and treatment.