Meaning of Left-Side Abdominal Pain

Fact Checked

iJupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Left side abdominal pain is often described as burning, a dull ache, stabbing or sharp. When left side abdominal pain is present, it often signals a problem. It is also a very common complaint in doctors' offices. Sometimes what a person eats, stress or exercise can trigger left side abdominal pain, but it can also be caused by certain organs such as the appendix, intestines, gallbladder, kidneys and pancreas.


iJupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

If the pancreas is the root of left side abdominal pain, pancreatitis is the most common cause. Pancreatitis is considered a medical emergency and those experiencing this condition should seek medical treatment as quickly as possible. The symptoms of pancreatitis include severe pain, nausea, racing heart, vomiting, yellow-colored skin and fever. The pain often starts in the upper area of the stomach and then spreads to the back and to the sides. Pancreatitis often flares up after drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or after eating a large meal.

Ectopic Pregnancy

iJupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

An ectopic pregnancy can often become a medical emergency, but even when it isn't, it needs to be treated promptly. It is considered an emergency if the patient is bleeding or in severe pain. An ectopic pregnancy is a type of pregnancy where the fertilized egg does not implant itself to the lining of the uterus, but somewhere else in the abdominal cavity. Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include mild vaginal bleeding, cramping on the left side of the pelvis (in some cases the cramps may occur on the right side) and pain in the lower abdominal area.

Intestinal Obstruction

iJupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

An intestinal obstruction is a medical emergency in which there is a blockage of the colon or small intestine. This blockage prevents fluids and foods from passing. The symptoms of an intestinal obstruction include fever, intermittent left side abdominal pain, swollen abdomen, nausea, inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement and diarrhea or nausea.


iJupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Diverticulitis is a condition in which small pouches in the digestive tract get infected or become inflamed. The symptoms of diverticulitis include diarrhea, bowel habit changes, constipation, tenderness in the abdomen, nausea and vomiting, fever and severe, sudden left side abdominal pain. Bloating and rectal bleeding occur less commonly. If a combination of sharp left side abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, swelling, fever and chills occur it is considered a medical emergency.

Ovarian Cyst

iJupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Ovarian cysts are small sacs filled with fluid that can occur on the ovary's surface or within the ovary. If a cyst occurs on or within the left ovary, it can cause left side abdominal pain. In some cases, this pain can get severe. Other symptoms of an ovarian cyst include irregular menstrual periods, pelvic pain during intercourse, pain when having a bowel movement, breast tenderness, nausea or vomiting, abdomen fullness and pressure on the bladder or rectum. An ovarian cyst is considered a medical emergency if severe, sudden pelvic or abdominal pain along with vomiting or fever occur.