What causes pain in the left side of the abdomen?

Pain in the left side of the abdomen may have numerous causes that go through problems in the internal organs of the digestive system, the urinary system, bones of the pelvic cavity, muscles of the abdominal wall or alterations in the vessels, nerves or skin of the area.

In addition to pain, it is important to attend to other symptoms that may give clues to the specific origin. However, to diagnose the exact cause of abdominal pain, an X-ray, tomography or magnetic resonance imaging may be necessary, sometimes together with other more specific tests, for example colonoscopy.

In any case, if the pain appears suddenly, is very intense or appears together with fever, dizziness or loss of consciousness, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Left upper quadrant pain

Pain in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen (above the navel) can be caused by problems in the organs in that area, but it can also be caused by radiating pain from the lower abdomen and from the rib cage. The many possible causes include the following:

  • Stomach: gastritis, stomach ulcers or hiatal hernia; also more serious ailments such as cancer and stomach polyps.
  • Large intestine: constipation, diverticulosis, intestinal volvulus (twisting of the intestine on itself).
  • Abdominal muscles: contusions, muscle tension, excessive exercise, abdominal hernia, psoas abscess, rectus sheath hematoma.
  • Pancreas: chronic or acute pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer.
  • Spleen: splenic infarction, splenomegaly, rupture due to trauma (frequent in traffic accidents).
  • Kidneys: kidney stones, glomerulonephritis, pyelonephritis (kidney infection).
  • adrenal glands: adrenal adenoma (benign tumor), adrenal carcinoma (malignant tumor).
  • Lungs: pneumonia, pleurisy, pulmonary embolism.
  • Heart: myocardial infarction, angina pectoris, pericarditis, myocarditis, endocarditis.
  • Diaphragm: abscesses.
  • Others: abdominal adhesions, peritonitis, intestinal obstruction.

Left lower quadrant pain

Pain in the left lower quadrant of the abdomen, like the left upper quadrant, can be caused by problems in the organs and tissues located in that part of the body, but also by reflected pain from other areas. In women, it is often related to the menstrual cycle, either at the level of the ovaries, fallopian tubes or uterus.

  • Colon: constipation, gas accumulation in the splenic flexure, irritable bowel syndrome, deverticulitis and diverticulosis, colorectal polyps, volvulus in the sigmoid colon, inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, ischemic colitis, infections (for example Clostridium difficile after administration of antibiotics).
  • Appendix: Appendicitis usually causes pain in the right side but sometimes it can be reflected on the left side.
  • female reproductive organs: ovulation (pain in the middle of the cycle), gonorrhea, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, ovarian cyst, fibroid tumors, etc.
  • male reproductive organs: gonorrhea, spermatic cord disorders, testicular disorders, etc.
  • Peritoneum: peritonitis, ascites.
  • Vascular and blood problems: abdominal aortic aneurysm, atherosclerosis and embolism in the mesenteric arteries, hereditary angioedema, porphyrias, sickle cell anemia, etc.
  • Dermis: herpes zoster, dermatitis exacerbated with infections and abscesses.
  • Others: pelvic adhesions, intestinal obstruction.
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