Causes of left-sided abdominal pain

Updated February 21, 2017

Abdominal pain is a symptom of numerous disorders, some of them serious or life threatening. Contact a doctor if you're experiencing severe abdominal pain that persists or worsens. For pain in the left side of your abdomen, a quick check of your recent activities, food consumption and accompanying symptoms may help you determine a probable cause.


In medical terms, your abdomen begins just below your thorax or breastbone and extends downward to your pelvic bones. Your abdomen is home to your stomach, your large and small intestines, your appendix, liver, spleen, pancreas and gallbladder. In addition, your urinary system, kidney and ureters are in your abdomen. Although your reproductive organs are in your pelvis, many people consider this area to be their abdomen.


Pain is your body’s way of telling you there could be a problem. Since the abdomen contains many organs, the location of the pain, the intensity and the type of pain are indicators of the underlying problem. Some of the more common digestive-system causes of left-sided abdominal pain include intestinal gas accompanied by abdominal distension, indigestion, colitis, Pancreatitis, Diverticulitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or renal problems affecting the left kidney or ureter. If the pain is new, sharp or severe, contact a physician for advice.


Because the abdomen is the largest body cavity, pain on the left side may indicate a problem elsewhere in the abdomen. An ectopic pregnancy in the left Fallopian tube may radiate pain into the upper portion of the abdomen. In women, endometriosis can cause chronic pain in either side of the abdomen. If your doctor suspects the pain originates in your reproductive organs, he may order a transvaginal ultrasound to pinpoint the problem.


Your physician will ask about your recent meals if the pain is midway on the left side of your abdomen. Although food poisoning often affects the entire abdomen, resulting in nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, it may also affect only one side, causing the muscles to cramp. Left-sided pain that extends towards your back may originate in your left kidney. A kidney stone causes excruciating pain in some individuals and may require laser treatment to break the stone into smaller pieces, allowing it to pass through the ureter. With a large kidney stone, some blood may be visible in your urine, from a pink tinge to a darker red. Any blood in your urine signals the need to notify a doctor immediately.


Although a simple digestive disorder may result in left-sided abdominal pain, the cause may also be something serious. A doctor should address any new pain or pain that worsens. Left sided-abdominal pain with an accompanying fever, loss of appetite, abdominal swelling or bad breath signal an emergency and the patient should see a physician as soon as possible.


Don’t wait for severe pain to subside, call your doctor and get his opinion. While most cases of abdominal pain are temporary conditions, resulting from poor digestion, a pulled abdominal muscle or constipation, take no chances.

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About the Author

Glenda Taylor is a contractor and a full-time writer specializing in construction writing. She also enjoys writing business and finance, food and drink and pet-related articles. Her education includes marketing and a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.