Lower left abdominal pain is unpleasant. The strength, frequency, and type (stabbing, throbbing, pulsing, etc.) of your pain are all important pieces of information that can be used to form an accurate diagnosis.
The lower left quadrant of the abdomen, the area below the ribs and to the side of the belly button, houses a number of useful organs. This includes a portion of the large intestines and small bowel, the sigmoid and descending colon, one of the kidneys, and the left ovary and fallopian tube, among others.
Any pain in this region suggests a problem with one of the organs within, meaning multiple possible causes as well as solutions.
What Causes Lower Left Abdominal Pain?
A diverticula is a small “pouch” that can form along the lining of the digestive tract as a result of colonic and intestinal pressure, most often in the lower portion of the large intestine or in the colon. They are more common in people over 40 but are normally benign and are perfectly content to simply hang around being useless and bulgy. The problem is that sometimes diverticula can become inflamed or infected, causing the condition known as diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis is actually one of the leading causes of lower left abdominal pain among older individuals and it can be recognized by the accompanying symptoms. In addition to the pain, diverticulitis tends to present itself with nausea and vomiting, fever, and changes in bowel habits—usually constipation but diarrhea and rectal bleeding are known to happen as well. For some reason, people of Asian descent are more likely to experience the pain on the right side of the body instead of the left.
2. Intestinal or bowel obstruction
Numerous things can be behind an intestinal obstruction including hernias, tumors, swallowed objects, and exceptionally compacted fecal matter. As the body attempts to rid itself of the obstruction, you will inevitably feel a form of pulsing and intermittent cramping in response to the intestinal movements trying to overpower the blockage.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, having an obstruction in your bowel makes it hard to pass stool, so you may find yourself constipated and unable to even pass gas. However, an obstruction can also result in diarrhea because partial obstructions sometimes allow more liquid feces to flow around and escape. Intestinal inflammation, nausea and vomiting (but not fevers) are also common symptoms. Lastly, although the pain of an obstruction is initially more localized, it can spread over a wider area if not addressed in time.
3. Ovarian cysts
The ovaries are highly vulnerable to developing cysts—fluid filled sacs that can grow in the sites where eggs are released. Most cysts are benign and will not produce more than mild discomfort if any symptoms show at all. However, some can grow large and twist, provoking more serious symptoms such as pelvic pain prior to menstruation, aching pain in the pelvic region, nausea and vomiting, unexpected weight gain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and an increased need to urinate due to pressure on the bladder. In the event that a cyst ruptures, the pain will suddenly become intense and stabbing and be accompanied by faintness and rapid breathing. This is a serious emergency that needs quick medical attention.
This is what happens when endometrial tissue forms outside of the uterus. Common locations include the ovaries, bowel, or along the pelvis. The displaced tissue does not normally do anything until the menstrual cycle comes around. Then, it does what it’s supposed to do—thicken, break down, and bleed away—only without a vaginal disposal mechanism.
This causes the tissue to become trapped, irritating and possibly scarring the surrounding area. Symptoms appear most prominently during the menstrual period and include intense pelvic pain (beyond normal menstrual cramps), abnormally heavy periods, pain during or after sex, and pain during urination or bowel movements. Depending on if and where scar tissue forms, you may also have symptoms like diarrhea or constipation.
5. Kidney stones
A kidney stone is a small crystal formed of concentrated uric acid or calcium and can cause obstruction or laceration when being passed into the bladder. The “good” news is that the pain of a kidney stone is highly recognizable in that it is one of the most painful sensations known to man. Pain from a kidney stone is intense and can radiate across the entire side of the body up to the groin, usually coming in waves of varying intensity.
Other accompanying pleasantries include painful urination, fever and chills, nausea and vomiting, pink, red, brown, or cloudy and foul-smelling urine, and frequent urination. Kidney infections have similar symptoms to kidney stones but the main difference is that pain from an infection is not as intense and presents itself as more of a persistent throb or soreness.
Treatments for Lower Left Abdominal Pain
Finding the correct treatment, including natural treatments, for lower left abdominal pain requires getting an accurate diagnosis from your doctor. The treatments can vary wildly from one cause to another, but a few generalizations can be made.
- Surgery: Some cases, like diverticulitis, cysts, or kidney stones, only call for surgery in the more severe cases. Others, like an intestinal obstruction, require surgical intervention to be administered promptly in order to avoid serious damage.
- Antibiotics: Diverticulitis and kidney infections can be caused by bacteria and antibiotics will usually be prescribed to combat the pathogens.
- Hydration: Kidney infections and kidney stones can be helped by drinking plenty of water to better flush out the system. Depending on the nature and location of a bowel obstruction, keeping up on your fluid intake can sometimes assist but this is not guaranteed.
- Pain treatments: Whether using prescribed painkillers, warm baths, or a heating pad, approaches that can ease pain will help make the healing process more comfortable.
Lower left abdominal pain is unpleasant but can be treated. Try one of the treatment options listed above and make sure to speak to your doctor before embarking on a rehabilitation option.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Endometriosis,” Mayo Clinic web site, April 2, 2013; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20013968.
“Diverticulitis,” Mayo Clinic web site, August 7, 2014; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diverticulitis/basics/definition/con-20033495.
“Kidney Stones,” Mayo Clinic web site, February 26, 2015; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-stones/basics/symptoms/con-20024829.
“Lower Left Abdominal Pain,” MedGuidance web site, http://www.medguidance.com/thread/Lower-Left-Abdominal-Pain.html, last accessed January 20, 2016.