Before we know about the causes, symptoms and treatment for abdominal pain (left) let us discuss about the various organs found in the left side of the abdomen. Spleen, large intestine, pancreas and a portion of the stomach are the major organs found in the upper left side of the abdomen. Lower ribs would cover these organs giving additional protection. On the lower side of the abdomen you can find the continuation of the above organs, a part of the kidney, a portion of large intestine, a part of bladder and ureter. All these organs are enveloped by muscles and skin.
Abdomen pain can be felt even if there is minor problem in any of the above organs. Abdominal pain can be caused by inflammation of the skin or muscles that surrounds it or by stretching of certain organs inside, or by swelling of organ or sometimes by reduced blood supply to the internal organs. Abdominal pain can be caused by the influence of other organs also. For instance, any condition in the lower lungs or uterus or kidneys can cause pain in the abdomen. Some organs may be lying outside the abdomen but still can cause pain there. Similarly pain originating within the abdomen can be felt on other regions. For instance, pancreatic pain can be felt in the form of lower back pain. There are several causes ranging from trapped gas to tumors or bowel cancer that can cause persistent abdominal pain. It is essential for you to know the nature of pain, the place of pain and its duration.
Some of the various causes of abdominal pain are summarized below:-
- Volvulus :
Part of stomach can twists on itself at some point causing intense pain. Volvulus can be due to malrotation and for some children it can be present as birth-defect. One side of the stomach can flip into the other or upper portion can flip towards lower side. Volvulus can be of many kinds like sigmoid volvulus, cecum volvulus, small intestine volvulus or gastric volvulus. This condition can cause severe pain.
- Trapped Gas :
An individual who eats/drinks fast would swallow air which builds up in the stomach causing cramps. It would also cause bloating and burping. Left side abdominal pain largely occurs due to trapped gas.
- Abdominal Aneurysm :
Any leakage of blood in the aorta inside the digestive system causes abdominal aortic aneurysm. This condition can cause intense pain in the left side of the abdomen.
- Intestinal problems :
Any obstruction in the bowel movement can cause cramps in the abdomen. If there is any blockage in the large or small intestine it can build up considerable pressure in the abdomen due to accumulation of food, fluids and gases inside. It can cause vomiting and severe pain in the left abdomen.
- Constipation :
Accumulation of feces in the large intestine occurs due to regular constipation. This condition can cause considerable pain in the abdomen.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease :
This condition is the combination of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in which inflammation (swelling) of colon occurs. This can cause abdominal pain, blood in stool, diarrhea and loss of weight.
- Intestine Cancer :
If there is any malignant tumor formed in the intestine it can cause considerable pain, poor appetite, change in bowel habit, loss of weight and weakness. This is potentially serious condition and to be treated early.
- Stones In Kidney :
Presence of stones in kidney can cause chronic pain in the left side of the abdomen along with other symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. The pain would be intense and radiate till the groin.
- Food Poison :
Depending on the nature of poison the digestive system can produce symptoms of diarrhea, fever, nausea and severe abdominal pain.
- Infections :
Any infection in the liver, kidney or intestine can affect the balance of digestive system causing severe pain in the abdomen.
- Pancreatitis :
Pancreatitis (acute or chronic) is the inflammation of pancreas. Pain may start suddenly for many people and gradually for some. Pain is felt in the upper left abdomen which radiates towards the back. Pain would be severe after eating and when one lies flat on his back.
- Pneumonia :
Pneumonia is inflammation of lungs which causes persistent coughing and shortness of breath. It can cause crushing pain in the upper left portion of the abdomen.
- Appendicitis :
Appendix is rupture of small finger like organ tucked in the stomach. It can cause unbearable pain if the appendix has ruptured inside and requires immediate surgery. Some of the symptoms of inflammation of appendix includes dull pain near the navel that continues towards the right abdomen, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and fever.
- Diverticulitis :
In this condition, pain is felt in the lower left side of the abdomen and is one of the most common causes of abdominal pain.
Other conditions like ectopic pregnancy, hernia, endometriosis, cysts in the ovary, hematoma of rectal sheath, and stomach cancer can cause considerable pain in the left abdomen. More often mild pain in the left side of the abdomen would be due to gastric problem or indigestion. About 25% of people admitted in serious condition to the hospital with left abdominal pain are diagnosed with bowel obstruction.
Intensity of pain differs according to the cause. Abdominal pain would be mild if there is gas circulation or constipation, it would be moderate if there is inflammation of organs and severe pain if something is serious. If upper left abdominal pain is accompanied with symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever you should check with your doctor without delay. It can be due to any serious medical condition.
Abdomen comprises several vital organs performing various functions. Also it is a large area extended below the heart till your legs. Hence before ordering for any lab tests your doctor would take into account various factors given below.
- Gradual Pain or Sudden Pain :
The way pain begins in the abdomen is an essential factor for diagnosing the problem. Sudden abdominal pain suggests something acute has happened inside like block in the blood supply or obstruction of bowel movement.
- Place Of Pain :
Exact location where the pain is felt is an important factor to consider. Sharp pain in the navel region which proceeds towards the right lower abdomen indicates appendicitis. Any pain in the left lower abdomen can be due to diverticulitis. If gallbladder is affected it can cause pain in the upper right abdomen.
- Nature of Pain :
The pain can be in the form of cramps (intestinal contraction), dull wavy pain, constant rigid pain (obstruction of bile ducts) and severe steady pain (acute pancreatitis) and sudden sharp pain (appendicitis).
- Duration Of Pain :
Your doctor would ask you questions about the time of pain, whether it lasts for few minutes, hours, a day or weeks or even more. Depending on the individual case your doctor would request for lab tests like CBC, urine analysis, enzyme analysis, followed by X-rays or CT scan.
Treatment depends on the cause of abdomen pain. Often right diagnosis can make things better within few hours. Some serious conditions like appendicitis may require surgery.