What’s Causing Pain in My Lower Left Abdomen?

Medically reviewed by Suzanne Falck, MD on June 9, 2017Written by Glenna Bailey

Is this cause for concern?

The lower left side of your abdomen is home to the last part of your colon, and for some women, the left ovary. Minor pain in this area is usually nothing to worry about and may clear up on its own in a day or two.

If you have pain related to an accident or injury, call your local emergency services right away. You should also seek immediate medical attention if you feel pressure or pain in your chest.

Ask someone to help you get to urgent care or an emergency room if you have:

  • fever
  • severe tenderness in the affected area
  • swelling of the abdomen
  • bloody stools
  • persistent nausea and vomiting
  • unexplained weight loss
  • skin that looks yellow ( jaundice )

Read on to learn more about pain in the lower left abdomen, what causes it, and when to see your doctor.

Diverticulitis Diverticulitis is one of the most common causes

In many cases, persistent pain specific to the lower left side of the abdomen is caused by diverticulitis .

Diverticula are small pouches created from pressure on weak spots in the colon. Diverticula are common , and even more so after age 40 . When a pouch tears, swelling and infection can cause diverticulitis.

Other symptoms include:

  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal tenderness

Less commonly, constipation or diarrhea can be a sign of diverticulitis.

For mild diverticulitis, most people respond well to rest, a change in diet , and antibiotics. Some people need surgery if the condition is severe or continues to return.

Other common causes Other common causes of lower abdominal pain

Here are some of the most common reasons for pain on either side of the lower abdomen.

Gas

Passing gas and belching are normal. Gas can be found throughout your digestive tract, from your stomach to your rectum. Gas is the normal result of swallowing and digestion.

Gas can be caused by:

  • swallowing more air than usual
  • overeating
  • smoking
  • chewing gum
  • being unable to fully digest some foods
  • eating gas-producing foods
  • having a disruption of the bacteria in the colon

Gas usually isn’t serious. Talk with your doctor if it’s persistent or goes along with other symptoms, such as:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • unintentional weight loss
  • heartburn
  • blood in the stool

Indigestion

Indigestion usually happens after eating. Your stomach makes acid when you eat. This acid can irritate your esophagus, stomach, or bowel. The pain is usually in the upper part of the abdomen but in rare cases may also affect the lower abdomen.

Indigestion is usually mild, and most people have had the discomfort, pain, or burning sensation that can go along with it.

Other symptoms include:

  • heartburn
  • feeling full or bloated
  • belching or passing gas
  • nausea

See your doctor if indigestion continues or worsens.

Hernia

A hernia is the result of an internal organ or other body part pushing through the muscle or tissue surrounding it. A lump or bulge may appear with some hernias in the abdomen or groin.

Other symptoms may include:

  • increasing size of the bulge
  • increasing pain at the site
  • pain when lifting
  • a dull ache
  • a feeling of fullness

Different symptoms go along with each type of hernia. For example, hiatal hernias don’t produce a bulge.

The specific cause depends on the type of hernia. Hernias may cause serious problems, so see your doctor if you suspect that you may have one.

Kidney stones

A kidney stone usually starts to cause problems when it moves around inside your kidney or into your ureter, the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder.

The stone may then cause severe pain in the side and back, under your ribs. The pain may also come in waves and get better or worse from one moment to the next, as the stone moves through your urinary tract.

You may also experience:

  • urine that is pink, red, brown, cloudy, or smelly
  • urination that is painful or happening more often
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever or chills

There is no single cause of a kidney stone. Some things may increase your risk, like someone in your family having a stone. See your doctor if you have symptoms that worry you.

Shingles

Ever had the chickenpox? If so, the varicella-zoster virus sits quietly in your body. The virus can show up again later as shingles . Your risk goes up as you age, usually after age 50 .

The shingles infection can cause a painful rash that looks like a stripe of blisters wrapping around one side of your body. Sometimes the rash shows up on the neck or face. Some people have pain but no rash .

Other symptoms include:

  • burning, numbness, or tingling
  • sensitivity to touch
  • blisters that break open and form scabs
  • itching

The shingles vaccine can help lower your chances of getting shingles. If you do get shingles, see your doctor. Starting treatment early can shorten the infection and lower your chances of having other problems.

In women Causes that affect women only

Some causes of lower left abdominal pain only affect women. These conditions may be more serious or need medical attention. Pain can also develop on right side of your abdomen in these cases.

Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea)

Cramps usually occur before and during your menstrual period. Although the pain can range from a minor annoyance to something that interferes with your daily activities, menstrual cramps usually aren’t serious.

See your doctor if:

  • your cramps interfere with your daily activities
  • your symptoms get worse over time
  • you’re older than age 25 and your cramps have started to get more severe

Endometriosis

With endometriosis , tissue that typically lines the inside of your uterus also grows outside of the uterus. This can cause abdominal pain and lead to infertility.

Some other symptoms are:

  • painful menstrual cramps that may get worse with time
  • pain with sex
  • painful bowel movements or urination
  • heavy menstrual periods
  • spotting between periods

The cause of endometriosis is unknown. It’s time to see your doctor when your symptoms are severe and interfere with your daily activities.

Ovarian cyst

An ovarian cyst is a sac filled with fluid inside or on the surface of an ovary. These are part of a woman’s normal menstrual cycle.

Most cysts don’t produce symptoms and go away without treatment in a few months. A large cyst can cause discomfort. It may also press on your bladder and cause you to urinate more often.

A cyst that ruptures (breaks open) can cause some serious problems, such as severe pain or internal bleeding.

See your doctor or get medical help right away if you’re experiencing:

  • sudden, severe abdominal pain
  • pain with fever or vomiting
  • signs of shock, such as cold and clammy skin, rapid breathing, lightheadedness, or weakness

Ovarian torsion

Large ovarian cysts may cause the ovary to change position in a woman’s body. This raises the risk of ovarian torsion, a painful twisting of the ovary that can cut off blood supply. The fallopian tubes may also be affected.

Ovarian torsion is more likely to happen with pregnancy or the use of hormones to promote ovulation.

Ovarian torsion isn’t common. When it does happen, it’s usually during a woman’s reproductive years. See your doctor if you feel a sudden severe pain in your abdomen with vomiting. Surgery is often needed to untwist the ovary or remove it.

Ectopic pregnancy

With ectopic pregnancy , a fertilized egg implants itself before it reaches the uterus. This usually happens inside the fallopian tubes connecting the ovary to the uterus. You may or may not have symptoms with an ectopic pregnancy.

In addition to abdominal pain, symptoms can include:

  • a missed period and other pregnancy signs
  • vaginal bleeding
  • watery discharge
  • discomfort with urination or bowel movements
  • shoulder pain at the tip

See your doctor if you have these symptoms and you believe you may be pregnant, even if your pregnancy test is negative and it’s still very early.

An ectopic pregnancy that ruptures (breaks open) is serious and needs surgery to repair the fallopian tube. Get medical help right away if you’re:

  • feeling sick or dizzy
  • feeling faint
  • looking very pale

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

PID is an infection of the reproduction system in women. It’s commonly caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, but other types of infections can also lead to PID.

You may or may not have symptoms with PID.

In addition to abdominal pain, symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • vaginal discharge with a bad odor
  • pain or bleeding with sex
  • a burning sensation with urination
  • bleeding between periods
See your doctor if you think you or your partner have been exposed to an STD or if you have any genital symptoms, such as an unusual sore or discharge.

 

In men Causes that affect men only

Some causes of lower left abdominal pain only affect men. These conditions may be more serious or need medical attention. Pain can also develop on the right side of the abdomen in these cases.

Inguinal hernia

An inguinal hernia is the result of fat or a portion of the small intestine pushing through a weak area in a man’s lower abdomen. This type of hernia is much less common in women.

Some symptoms are:

  • a small bulge on the side of the groin that may get larger over time and usually goes away when you lay down
  • pain in the groin that gets worse when straining, lifting, coughing, or during physical activity
  • weakness, heaviness, burning, or aching in the groin
  • a swollen or enlarged scrotum

This type of hernia can cause serious problems. Get medical help right away if you have:

  • extreme tenderness or redness at the bulge site
  • sudden pain that gets worse and continues
  • problems passing gas or having a bowel movement
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever

Testicular torsion

In testicular torsion , the testicle rotates. This lowers blood flow to the testicles and causes severe pain and swelling. The cause of this condition is unknown. Testicular torsion can happen in any male, but it occurs most often in boys aged 12 to 16 .

Some symptoms include:

  • sudden, severe scrotum pain and swelling
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • painful urination
  • fever

Testicular torsion is very serious. Get medical help right away if you have sudden or severe pain in your testicles . If the pain goes away on its own, you still need to see your doctor right away. Surgery may prevent damage to the testicle and preserve your ability to have children.

See your doctor When to see your doctor

Are you worried about your abdominal pain? Has it lasted more than a few days? If you answered yes to both questions, it’s time to see your doctor. Until then, pay attention to your pain and see if anything eases it. The bottom line? Listen to your body and see your doctor sooner rather than later if the pain persists.

  • Medically reviewed by Suzanne Falck, MD on June 9, 2017Written by Glenna Bailey