Pain in the left side of your belly (abdomen) is a common symptom and could indicate a variety of conditions. Pain is never normal, but it is not always serious.
Pain in your left abdomen usually comes from one of the organs in that part of your body. Organs on the left side of your abdomen that might cause pain include:
Part of the stomach
Part of the small intestine
Left side and descending part of the colon
Left ovary and fallopian tube in women
A blood clot or infection in the left lung can also cause left-sided abdominal pain. A heart attack or swelling around the heart can cause this pain, too.
Types and Symptoms of Left-Sided Abdominal Pain
Pain on the left side of your abdomen may last a short time (acute pain) or a long time (chronic pain). The pain might start in one place and move (radiate) to another. The pain might be sharp or dull.
Other symptoms you experience along with the pain can be very important in figuring out the cause of your pain. They can include nausea, cramping, diarrhea, fever and constipation.
Common causes of left-sided abdominal pain include:
Stomach ulcer or inflammation of the stomach (gastritis). This may cause acute or chronic pain in the left upper part of your abdomen. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting. Bleeding in the stomach may cause bloody vomiting or stool that is bloody, black or tarry.
Cancer or inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). This can cause pain in the left upper part of the pancreas. Pancreatitis causes severe and constant pain that may radiate to the back, sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting and fever. Pancreatic cancer causes pain that is dull and more gradual. Symptoms include nausea, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), and weight loss.
Cancer, infection, or diseases of the left colon. These conditions can cause crampy pain in the lower left abdomen. Other symptoms may include changes in bowel habits, weight loss, fever, blood or mucus in the stool, and tenderness when pressing on the lower abdomen. A cancer or disease that blocks the colon may cause crampy pain and constipation.
Cancer or inflammation of the small intestine. This can cause left-sided abdominal pain along with changes in bowel habits, loss of appetite, cramping, gas, bloating, and blood or mucus in the stool.
Kidney disease, kidney infection, or kidney stones. Pain from these conditions may be sharp and acute. It may radiate to behind the ribs or down into the groin. Other symptoms may include burning pain when passing urine, fever, blood in the urine, and tenderness in the right flank.
Pelvic pain in women. A condition in a woman’s pelvis can produce lower left abdominal pain. One cause of pain is an ectopic pregnancy, when a fertilized egg attaches outside of the uterus. The pain may be acute and sharp. Other symptoms may include changes in bowel habits and vaginal bleeding. An ovarian cyst also can cause pelvic pain in women. The pain may come and go, can be dull, and may radiate to the back. Other symptoms may include abnormal and painful periods. Another source of pelvic pain in women can be a pelvic infection, which may also cause fever and vaginal discharge or bleeding.
Blood clot or infection in the left lung. A blood clot that travels to your lung (known as pulmonary embolism) can cause sharp, severe and acute pain. Other symptoms of pulmonary embolism may include cough, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and blood-tinged sputum (the mucus expelled when you cough). In addition to pain, lung infections like pneumonia may cause fever.
Heart attack or swelling around the heart (pericarditis). Heart conditions like these can cause upper abdominal pain on the left side. Other symptoms may include acute, stabbing chest pain with difficulty breathing. You also may have weakness, a cough, and sweating.
Red Flags for Left Abdominal Pain
Mild abdominal pain that goes away and does not come back may not need treatment. However, talk to your doctor about any abdominal pain that is severe or keeps coming back. It is never normal to have abdominal pain, so it’s always a good idea to tell your doctor about any symptoms you’re experiencing.
Certain “red flags” mean you need to seek medical care. Watch for these more serious symptoms:
Severe or worsening pain
Pain with fever
Chest pain, cough, or trouble breathing
Pain with diarrhea
Constipation that lasts more than three days
Blood in your stool
Pain with nausea or vomiting
Pain with swelling of the abdomen
Severe tenderness of the abdomen
Pain with vaginal discharge or bleeding