Abdominal pain on the left or left side can occur in very different frequencies, intensities and types and can thus be perceived, for example, as stinging, pulling or boring. There are often relatively harmless reasons for the symptoms, such as food intolerance or an unhealthy lifestyle. However, since there are a number of organs such as the spleen, pancreas or stomach on the left side of the abdomen, as well as the heart or lungs in the immediate vicinity, these can also be due to a more serious illness or even a heart attacksuggest. Accordingly, left-sided abdominal pain should always be clarified by a doctor in order to avoid health risks and to be able to start treatment early if necessary.
Table of Contents
- Causes of left-sided abdominal pain
- Abdominal pain on the left lower abdomen
- Complaints on the left side in the upper abdomen
- Abdominal pain left after eating
- Abdominal pain to the left of the navel
- Treatment for left abdominal pain
- Naturopathy for left-sided stomach problems
Whether light, strong, pulling, blunt or stinging – abdominal pain on the left side can be very different. The complaints can only appear on the left side, but also, for example, in the upper or middle abdomen, as well as on the right side or in the lower abdomen, the back, the chest or the legs. There are a number of organs and structures on the left side of the abdomen, so the symptoms can have many causes. The majority of the abdominal cavity is taken up by the intestine, which essentially consists of the small and large intestine (colon). The small intestine connects directly to the stomach and is three to six meters long and spreads like a tube in the abdomen,
An ultrasound examination of the abdomen reveals possible causes of the abdominal pain. (Image: olgasparrow / fotolia.com)
Next to it is part of the pancreas on the left, as well as the spleen and much of the stomach. The heart can also lead to complaints on the left side in the abdominal cavity (for example in the event of a heart attack). In addition, the entire abdominal cavity is lined with the so-called “peritoneum”, which is why not only organic causes, but also inflammation of the peritoneum come into consideration for the pain. In addition, there are ureters in the lower area and, in women, the ovaries and fallopian tubes, which are located in the lower half of the left side of the abdomen.
Causes of left-sided abdominal pain
Due to the various organs and structures that are located in the left abdominal cavity, pain in this area can also have a variety of causes. Therefore, the most exact possible localization of the complaints is very important for the doctor, as well as information on strength and type and possible pain radiation, for example in the form of back or chest pain. In addition to the symptoms that appear during the examination, questions are asked in order to be able to consider or exclude certain diseases. However, it is often difficult to classify the pain correctly, because it can also be caused by inflammation of the bladder or disease of the uterus, although both are more in the center of the body. Period pain can sometimes only occur on the left side. B. stomach inflammation can also cause pain on the right side, although the stomach is in the upper abdominal area, somewhat to the left of the middle of the body. Accordingly, in the case of complaints on the left side, it is often necessary for an exact diagnosis, following a careful medical history, technical aids (ultrasound, gastrointestinal surgery, etc.
Abdominal pain on the left lower abdomen
If the pain is felt in the left lower abdomen, this often indicates a disease of the large intestine. So-called “diverticulitis” comes into question here, in which inflammation forms in the protrusions of the mucosa of the large or small intestine (diverticulum). From an expert’s point of view, this is mostly caused by a low-fiber diet, an increased consumption of red meat and a lack of physical activity, which causes firm, hard bowel movements and many people affected in parallel with constipationSuffer. The pressure causes the mucous membrane to bulge outward, and remains in these bulges of the intestinal wall can attack the mucous membrane and cause inflammation. The fourth and last part of the large intestine (colon sigmoideum, also “sigmoid”) is most often affected, which usually leads to sudden pain in the left lower abdomen, which often radiates to the back. Also typical are fever , nausea and vomiting , problems with urination and changes in bowel movements, which in addition to constipation can also mean diarrhea or slimy, purulent stool.
In addition to that, women also always have problems with the fallopian tubes and ovaries. Stuck urinary or kidney stones can also be responsible, as well as a urinary tract infection such as a bladder infection or a kidney inflammation is possible. This can sometimes cause no symptoms at all, but in addition to one-sided or bilateral pain in the lower abdomen, there is often a burning sensation when urinating, increased urge to urinate, difficulty holding the urine or blood in the stool . If the kidneys are involved, fever usually occurs, and in severe cases it can also cause chills , severe flank painas well as complaints in the perineum and genital area, a general feeling of illness as well as nausea and vomiting. Women have a much shorter urethra than men and are therefore more susceptible to a urinary tract infection. Therefore, especially in women in the case of left-sided pelvic pain, a urine examination should always be carried out in order to track down possible bacteria. These are the main cause of a urinary tract infection, often the intestinal bacterium Escherichia coli. Rarely, however, it can happen that the causative agents of other infections in the body reach the urinary tract via the bloodstream (“haematogenic infection”), and many other risk factors are known, for example diabetesmellitus, a congenital malformation of the urinary tract or a bladder stone. In addition, insufficient drinking can promote a urinary tract infection, as can incorrect hygiene behavior (cleaning after bowel movements “from back to front”, frequent washing of the genital area with soap, etc.). In addition, both pregnant women and sexually active women have an increased risk due to the shorter urethra and the proximity of the urethral opening to the anus. Because this allows intestinal bacteria to get into the urethra faster, for example through unprotected vaginal intercourse directly after anal or oral sex.
Complaints on the left side in the upper abdomen
If the pain appears on the left side of the upper abdomen, the spleen can also be the trigger, because it is located near the stomach, above the left kidney. The clearest sign of a spleen disease is an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly), which in most cases is a symptom of another disease (secondary spleen disease), e.g. an infectious disease (e.g. Pfeiffer’s glandular fever) or a blood disorder (e.g. leukemia) or Hodgkin’s disease ). However, the spleen itself can also be affected less frequently , for example in the event of a splenic infarction or splenic tear . Inflammation of the organ is also possible, which leads to massive stinging or boringUpper abdominal pain can lead to the left, also are Milzschmerzen often of blood vomiting , dizziness accompanied, diarrhea or heartburn.
In addition, fixed kidney stones can cause severe pain that radiates right into the left upper abdomen. The same applies to urinary tract infections such as a bladder infection or inflammation of the kidneys, which along with other complaints such as a burning pain when urinating and pelvic pain often lead to flank pain, which can be felt up to the upper abdominal area. The lungs can also be the cause. Because although this is embedded in the chest area, diseases such as pneumonia or pleurisy can cause symptoms that pull down into the upper abdomen. This is especially conceivable if other symptoms such as chest pain, cough, breathing problems or fever occur.
In relatively rare cases, inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) can also trigger the symptoms. This can occur both acutely and chronically, making it very uncomfortable for the patient. The cause here is often unnoticed gallstones or excessive alcohol consumption, but also possible, among other things, an overactive parathyroid gland , certain medications such as beta blockers, viral infections (e.g. Epstein-Barr virus)) or genetic factors. Accordingly, there are very different symptoms of pancreatitis, but the focus in acute inflammation is sudden, extreme pain in the upper abdomen, which is often still felt in the back and chest area. In addition to this, depending on the cause, nausea and vomiting, flatulence or fever can also occur. Even in the chronic form, the upper abdominal pain is the main symptom, which however occurs here again and again and is often accompanied by a feeling of fullness after fatty eating, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and fatty stool .
The complaints can also rarely come from the heart. For example, coronary artery disease (CHD) is possible, which is characterized in particular by chest tightness (angina pectoris), shortness of breath and heart pain , but which often also radiate into the arms (especially left), lower jaw, back or upper abdomen. In an emergency, pain in the left upper abdomen can also be an indication of a heart attack. Here there is typically shortness of breath, chest tightness and strong, radiating chest pain, in addition to which there is usually a strong facial pallorand cold sweat on the face and a strong feeling of weakness. Abdominal pain in this context should be taken particularly seriously in women, because in addition to shortness of breath and back pain, these are a typical symptom of a female infarction, while chest pain is the main symptom in men.
Abdominal pain left after eating
If the left side abdominal pain occurs primarily during food intake and / or afterwards, urological or gynecological diseases can usually be ruled out. Instead, this usually involves stomach problems , such as gastritis or inflammation of the stomach, which occurs very frequently and can be both acute and chronic. In acute gastritis, the abdominal pain can occur very suddenly, for example as a result of an overdose of painkillers, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive psychological or physical stressor from food poisoning. In addition to this, there is often an unpleasant taste in the mouth, belching and nausea, with the symptoms typically intensifying during eating. Chronic inflammation of the stomach, on the other hand, manifests itself in addition to the abdominal pain, in part through symptoms such as flatulence, bloated stomach and loss of appetiteand diarrhea. In most cases, however, it develops very slowly and without any recognizable signs, so that the disease often remains undetected at first. The chronic form can also have different causes: The trigger of the so-called “type A” gastritis is a rare autoimmune disease, whereas the very common “type B” is almost always an infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori . In addition, there is an inflammation of the stomach of the “type C”, which is triggered by toxic or attacking substances of the stomach (“chemical-toxic gastritis”), such as permanent large amounts of alcohol or certain pain relievers.
If the pain always occurs after eating certain foods or drinks, food intolerance is also conceivable. For example, an innate or acquired intolerance to milk sugar (lactose) is possible here, which cannot be digested in affected persons due to the fact that the digestive enzyme lactase is not or only partially available. After eating milk and milk products, this primarily results in a bloated stomach , abdominal pain or cramps, diarrhea as well as nausea and vomiting, but non-specific symptoms such as chronic fatigue , mood disorders, dizziness, inner restlessness , headache are also possibleor sleep disorders. If, on the other hand, the left side abdominal pain always occurs after the consumption of fructose, there may also be a fructose intolerance. This is seldom genetic, but in most cases develops through excessive consumption of fruit sugar (e.g. in fruit, honey, table sugar), stress or certain medications. In the case of this “intestinal” (acquired) intolerance (also called “fructose malabsorption”), the lack of a certain enzyme means that the body is no longer able to absorb enough fructose from the intestine into the blood. As a result, the remaining sugar remains in the intestine and is later broken down in the large intestine with the help of bacteria, which can lead to symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and a bloated stomach.
A gluten allergy (celiac disease) is also conceivable as a cause, an innate autoimmune disease in which those affected cannot tolerate the “glue protein” gluten that occurs in wheat or rye, for example, throughout their lives. This intolerance can “only” lead to diarrhea in some people, but it can also lead to severe courses, with very severe diarrhea or fatty stool, which often leads to deficiency symptoms and serious weight loss. In addition, intolerance to histamine can also trigger left-sided stomach painin the upper abdomen after eating or drinking, which occurs in a variety of foods such as soy products, chocolate, red wine, yeast, ham and tomatoes. This is usually an acquired disease in which histamine ingested from food due to a deficiency or the absence of certain enzymes can no longer be broken down accordingly. This leads to allergy-like reactions (“pseudoallergy”) such as itching, rash or eye swelling after eating histamine-containing foods . However, digestion problems, abdominal pain and diarrhea also occur, and effects on the cardiovascular system in the form of headaches, rapid heartbeat or circulatory weakness are also possible. Some of the symptoms appear directly after eating or drinking, but in other cases it can take hours for the first signs to become apparent.
Abdominal pain to the left of the navel
In many cases, there is abdominal pain in the area of the navel during pregnancy, which can be felt both on the left and on the right side, but also in a circle around the navel. In most cases, these complaints come from the child, who is getting bigger and heavier, which means that more pressure is also exerted on the abdominal wall of the woman. As a result, not only does the belly become rounder, but the navel is also pushed forward, which often causes the navel to “spread” or emerge. In most cases, this phenomenon does not pose a health risk for mother and / or child at all, but it is different if a bulge forms in the umbilical area in parallel. In this case it can be a so-called “umbilical hernia” with which the protrusion of tissue (“hernial sac”) is indicated by a gap in the abdominal wall (“hernia”) (medical: “umbilical hernia”). This affects a relatively large number of pregnant women and arises from the fact that not only is the abdominal wall increasingly stretched during pregnancy, but also the abdominal muscles diverge. In most cases, an umbilical hernia runs without pain, which means that it is often not even noticed at all, only the typical small “bump” in the umbilical area can be seen here. However, it happens In most cases, an umbilical hernia runs without pain, which means that it is often not even noticed at all, only the typical small “bump” in the umbilical area can be seen here. However, it happens In most cases, an umbilical hernia runs without pain, which means that it is often not even noticed at all, only the typical small “bump” in the umbilical area can be seen here. However, it happensAbdominal pain and / or bluish-red discoloration of the fracture, as well as fever, nausea or constipation, this indicates tissue trapped in the fracture portal. In this case, those affected should immediately consult a doctor or a hospital, otherwise there is a risk that the affected intestinal sections will no longer have adequate blood flow and may even die as a result. This in turn increases the risk of dangerous secondary diseases such as blood poisoning (sepsis), so a pinched umbilical hernia must always be operated on immediately.
Most of the interventions are carried out under general anesthesia, but in the case of smaller fractures, local anesthesia is often sufficient, and in some cases even an outpatient procedure. Since a “normal” umbilical hernia does not heal on its own in adults, surgery is usually carried out in this case too, in order not to take any health risks and to alleviate the symptoms.
Treatment for left abdominal pain
Left-sided abdominal complaints are treated in a variety of ways, depending on the cause. If, for example, a disease of the large intestine (diverticulitis) has been diagnosed, patients with antibiotics are usually given mild courses, but in severe or chronic cases, surgery is usually carried out in which the inflamed parts of the intestine are removed and the healthy ends are put back together. The advantage here is that the intestine can also be examined more extensively during the operation, so that possible further sagging can be recognized at an early stage.
In the case of acute pancreatitis, treatment in the hospital is usually also immediate, since there is always the risk that it will be difficult and thus become life-threatening. Accordingly, monitoring in an intensive care unit is necessary if the course is very difficult or complicated. Here the patient receives painkillers and fluids, and in severe cases, food must first be avoided. In the case of chronic pancreatitis, the focus of the therapy is the consequent abstinence from alcohol and a comprehensive change in diet. In addition, to prevent further relapses, all possible triggers should be combated as far as possible, for example by
However, if the pain on the left side is due to a urinary tract infection, the treatment depends on the type and cause of the infection. If this is caused by bacteria, the administration of an antibiotic is usually sufficient – but only on condition that there are no further risk factors for subsequent infections (such as bladder stones or diabetes mellitus). If this is the case, further treatment steps are usually necessary to avoid a chronic course.