Manhattan Gastroenterology
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Abdominal pain usually results from gas, indigestion, constipation, or diarrhea, but it may be occurring due to other issues like infection, diverticulitis, kidney stones, or even a hernia. Sharp, intense pain in the lower left abdomen should not be ignored, as it may be a warning sign of some medical condition affecting the vital organs. You must consult an experienced and board-certified gastroenterologist to identify the type of pain you are suffering and discuss your treatment options. Award-winning gastro doctors at Manhattan Gastroenterology use the best diagnostic methods and research to understand the possible reasons behind your pain, detect its source and help you find quick relief.

The abdominal cavity contains the majority of the body’s vital organs closely. Any problem with these essential organs in the abdomen can result in pain and other symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, gas or bloating, fever and chills, diarrhea or constipation, and weight loss. Dull ache may come from minor problems like bloating or constipation, but sharp and stabbing pain suggests a serious problem that needs medical attention.

Lower Left Abdomen

The abdomen is the section between the chest and pelvis. The lower-left part of the abdomen consists of the following organs:

  • Bladder
  • Left ureter
  • The descending colon
  • Sigmoid colon
  • Left kidney
  • Blood vessels and nerves

In women, the left fallopian tube and ovary are present in this part of the abdomen. A complex arrangement of the organs makes them vulnerable to inflammation, obstruction, or injury.

Pain caused by one organ often feels like pain from another place, or sometimes a problem with one organ can affect another. The first step toward identifying the cause of abdominal pain is determining the type of pain you are experiencing. Distinguishing between the types of pain, its severity, and location can help to determine the underlying cause. In rare instances, pain on the left side of the abdomen can be a sign of a heart attack, but in such a case, it is also accompanied by other symptoms like chest pain that spreads to the stomach, nausea, and tingling in the arms.

Pain in the Left Lower Quadrant

Left lower quadrant pain is abdominal ache that occurs principally in the lower half on the left-hand side. It is also known as left iliac fossa (LIF) pain, although this means pain in a smaller space on the lower-left edge of your stomach.

The lower left abdominal region is a complex structure that contains several organs. The abdominal cavity contains the body’s vital organs. Minor discomfort in this region is usually nothing to worry about. It can heal and help you feel better on your own. However, any damage, infection, or injury to these organs can result in abdominal pain and associated symptoms.

Suspected Causes of Lower Left Abdominal Pain

All sorts of common and uncommon problems with your digestive tract can result in lower left abdominal pain. Here are some common possible causes of what may be causing the unpleasant and annoying symptoms.

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is the condition in which small pouches called diverticula form in the walls of the large intestine, where the intestinal wall is weak or vulnerable. Due to the presence of diverticula, the intestinal walls become infected and inflamed, which results in abdominal pain.

Diverticulitis
Diverticulitis

Older people are more likely to develop diverticulitis as the number of diverticula grows as a person ages. However, young people can also get it due to some risk factors.

Symptoms of diverticulitis are:

  • Severe abdominal pain and cramping on the left side
  • Nausea
  • Chills or fever
  • Bloating
  • Constipation, thin stools, or diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding in rare cases

Diverticulitis pain tends to increase when you are eating or shortly after a meal. If you suspect diverticulitis, consult your doctor immediately to start treatment and avoid resulting complications.

Constipation

Constipation is the most common cause of abdominal pain. It is a condition in which bowel movements become irregular, and you may find it hard to pass the stool. When stool moves slowly through the gastrointestinal tract or cannot excrete from the rectum, it continues to sit in the sigmoid colon and causes discomfort. You may experience pain and bloating in the lower left abdomen. This pain and uneasiness can increase if constipation does resolve.

The following symptoms indicate constipation:

  • Straining when passing stool
  • Need to apply pressure to the abdomen to push the stool
  • Lumpy or hard stool
  • Feeling as if the rectum is blocked
  • Feeling that all the stool has not passed
  • Having lesser than three bowel movements in a week

Dehydration, a diet low in fiber, and an inactive lifestyle can result in constipation and even aggravate it. Certain medications or an underlying health conditions can also affect bowel movement.

Gas

Passing gas and burping are normal that result from swallowing and digestion. The gas is released from the body through belching or flatulence, but if it continues to build up in the descending colon, it can be felt in the lower quadrant on the left side. Gas that remains trapped in the digestive tract can result in abdominal pain.

There are many reasons for gas buildup in this way, but it is mainly due to the following:

  • Eating certain types of foods
  • Swallowing air by eating too quickly
  • Indigestion or upset stomach
  • Inability to digest some foods
  • Chewing gums regularly
  • Excessive smoking

Gas in the abdomen is usually not a serious problem and does not pose any health risk. It passes with time, but in the meanwhile, it can cause distress and pain.

You must consult a doctor if you experience the following symptoms with gas as they can be a sign of some critical stomach disorder:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Heartburn
  • Blood in the stool

Indigestion

Also known as dyspepsia or more commonly as an upset stomach, indigestion is something that most of us experience at some point in life. It results from the accumulation of digestive acids after eating.

The causes of indigestion include:

  • Overeating
  • Eating too quickly
  • Excessive consumption of spicy and fatty foods
  • Use of certain medications

Indigestion is mostly felt higher up in the digestive tract, but it can also affect the lower left side.

Symptoms of indigestion include:

  • Heartburn or burning sensation
  • Uneasiness
  • Feeling bloated
  • Passing gas
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

Most symptoms of indigestion are mild. You must consult a doctor if your symptoms worsen and home remedies and over-the-counter medications fail to provide relief, as they might be something serious.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder in which the small intestine cannot digest the sugar lactose found in dairy products. The human body requires an enzyme known as lactase to coagulate and break down the lactose in the milk, which consists of the simple sugar glucose and galactose. If your body does not produce sufficient quantities of lactase, you will have trouble digesting milk and milk-based products such as cheese and yogurt.

You can digest dairy products even with low levels of lactase but if your levels are too low, you become lactose intolerant. Failure to digest lactose can cause several gastrointestinal symptoms in the colon. They include:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea or loose stools
  • Abdominal pain in the lower-left side
  • Cramps
  • Gas pain and belching
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A growling or rumbling stomach

Also called lactose malabsorption, lactose intolerance is usually harmless, but the symptoms can be annoying and cause pain in the lower left quadrant. Consult a gastro doctor if you face recurring symptoms of lactose intolerance to avoid calcium deficiencies and weakness in the long run.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD is a set of chronic gastrointestinal conditions that cause prolonged inflammation anywhere along the digestive tract. The exact causes of IBD are not known, but it is the outcome of a defective immune system. A properly functioning immune system attacks foreign organisms such as viruses and bacteria to protect the body. With IBD, the immune system responds incorrectly to environmental triggers, which causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. In some cases, hereditary, genetic, or environmental factors may lead to the development of IBD.

The two most common forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both the disorders are not limited to the lower left abdomen, but they can affect the small or large intestines, which results in pain, inflammation, and discomfort in the region.

Common symptoms of IBD include:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • The urgency to have a bowel movement

IBD can be mild or severe, depending on the causes and the part of the intestinal tract involved.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder characterized by different symptoms that affect the large intestine, including abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. It is also referred to as a spastic colon because it tends to cause problems in the colon.

IBS can only be diagnosed accurately when other possible reasons behind your symptoms are ruled out by the doctor. It is because the exact causes of IBS have not been understood completely, and you can have the symptoms without any visible signs of damage or disease in your digestive tract. Symptoms of IBS are usually triggered by food or stress, muscle contractions in the intestine, or abnormalities in the nervous system.

Commonly experienced symptoms of IBS may include:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pressure
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Bloating

You should make an appointment to see your doctor if you have a persistent change in bowel habits or other signs or symptoms of IBS to avoid pain in the abdomen and nutritional deficiencies.

Shingles

It is a viral infection that comes from the same virus as chickenpox. After chickenpox has run its course, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, it may reappear as a painful rash that affects one side of the abdomen. Shingles can cause tenderness or pain on the skin or under the skin even before the rashes become visible.

The infection is caused by the varicella-zoster virus that produces a rash that looks like a line of blisters wrapping around one side of your body. Many people experience the pain but no rashes.

Symptoms of shingles include:

  • Burning, numbness, or tingling
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Blisters
  • Itching
  • Rashes that begin a few days after the pain
  • Fever or headache in some cases

Shingles are not life-threatening but can be very painful and affect your normal activities.

Hernia

Hernia refers to an organ or tissue pushing through the muscle or tissue surrounding it. The most common form of hernia involves part of the small intestines pushing through abdominal muscles and causing a small, painful bulge. Hernia affects both men and women, but it is more common in men.

Symptoms of hernia are:

  • A small bump on the side of the groin
  • Pain in the groin during physical activity
  • Pain when lifting an object
  • Pressure in the abdomen
  • Swollen or enlarged scrotum
  • A feeling of fullness

Different types of hernias can occur, and they vary according to the underlying cause. They can cause additional problems that make it essential to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Kidney Stones

Accumulation of calcium deposits in the kidney can lead to formation of hard and irregularly shaped kidney stones. We have two kidneys in our body, located on the left and ride side of the abdomen. In case of calcium buildup or the formation of stones in the left kidney, you may experience sharp pain in the lower left part of the abdomen. You may not realize you have stones in your kidney until they begin to cause pain and other symptoms.

Symptoms that indicate the presence of kidney pain include:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Painful urination
  • Urine that is pink, red, brown, cloudy, or smelly
  • Urge to urinate more
  • Blood in urine
  • Vomiting
  • Fever or chills

Kidney stones can be small, about the size of a chickpea, or a grain of sand, or as large as a golf ball. Large-sized stones can get stuck in the ureter and cause a blockage that can lead to severe pain in the lower left abdomen. Consult your healthcare provider if you suspect stones in your kidney before they turn very painful or lead to other complications for timely diagnosis and treatment.

When to See a Doctor for Your Lower Left Abdominal Pain?

Many types of abdominal pain are easily recognizable and can be relieved without needing medical assistance, such as indigestion, gas, and lactose intolerance. However, if you continue to experience discomfort that seems to be originating from the lower left abdomen and accompanied by symptoms like fever, chills, painful urination and bowel movement, or bloody urine and stool, you must call your doctor.

Intense or recurring pain in the abdomen could be a sign of some underlying medical condition that needs careful diagnosis and treatment. Prevention, pain management, and treatment depend on accurate diagnosis by an expert GI doctor. The specialist will take your medical history and analyze your symptoms before a thorough physical examination. Blood, urine, and stool tests with imaging tests such as endoscopy or colonoscopy may be proposed by the doctor to determine the specific causes behind your condition.

If you are suffering from abdominal pain and are not sure about its causes, contact your gastroenterologist to get it checked and seek answers to the questions regarding your condition. Schedule an appointment with award-winning and board-certified gastroenterologists at Manhattan Gastroenterology to learn how organs in your abdomen affect each other and what pain in the lower left side indicates. The highly-rated physicians NYC are experts in pain diagnosis and management and offer comprehensive care to treat your digestive disorders. They focus on the location and severity of your symptoms and recommend the best digestive healthcare solutions to alleviate your pain and ensure long-term wellness.

Updated on Aug 27, 2022 by Dr. Shawn Khodadadian (Gastroenterologist) of Manhattan Gastroenterology