Pain in the lower left abdomen may be no reason for concern, but it is still not something a person should ignore. Causes of pain in the lower left abdomen can be benign, such as gas pain, or they may be a sign of a chronic condition.

People experiencing persistent or chronic pain in the lower abdomen should seek medical attention. Sudden onset of severe pain in the lower left abdomen may require immediate medical care.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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There are several possible causes of lower left abdomen pain. Some causes are more common and benign, while others can be serious and require medical attention.

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis can cause lower left abdominal pain. Diverticulitis occurs when diverticula, which are small pouches in the intestinal wall, become infected and inflamed.

Diverticula form in weak areas of the large intestine, usually in the lower section — the sigmoid colon. They do not always cause symptoms or any problems. Many adults have diverticula, and it is more common in older adults.

In some cases, diverticula may cause some pain or cramping in the lower abdomen. If diverticula become inflamed, it can develop into diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis can cause pain in the lower left side of the abdomen, which may feel sudden and severe, but can also start off mild and get worse over several days. Other symptoms include:

Diverticulitis can cause serious complications without treatment, so people should consult a doctor if they have any of the above symptoms.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is a chronic condition that occurs in the digestive tract when a person cannot digest gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and is present in several foods and healthcare products.

When a person has celiac disease, eating gluten triggers their immune system to attack portions of the intestine, causing a range of digestive problems. Without treatment, celiac disease can cause long-term damage to the small intestine.

Symptoms of celiac disease may include:

Children with undiagnosed celiac disease may also experience malnourishment and growth impediments as a result of the condition. People with celiac disease should avoid gluten to prevent symptoms.

A person should speak with a doctor if they think they may have celiac disease.

Gas

It is natural to have gas in the digestive tract and occasional symptoms of gas. Swallowing air more frequently or eating certain foods may increase gas symptoms, such as:

Typically, gas is not anything to worry about and will pass out of the body through either the mouth or anus. Causes of gas include:

People should speak with a doctor if symptoms of gas are bothering them, they have a sudden change in symptoms, or they have additional symptoms, including abdominal pain and:

  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • unexplained weight loss

Lactose intolerance

A person who is lactose intolerant has trouble digesting milk and milk-based products, such as cheese and yogurt. This is because they lack sufficient amounts of an enzyme called lactase. Lactase breaks down the lactose in milk, which consists of the simple sugars glucose and galactose.

People with lactose intolerance are unable to digest all the lactose from food and drink. Unabsorbed lactose passes into the colon, where bacteria break it down to create gas and fluid. This increase in fluid and gas can cause symptoms such as:

  • pain in the abdomen
  • loose stool or diarrhea
  • bloating
  • gas
  • nausea

Inflammatory bowel disease

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic conditions that can cause painful inflammation anywhere in the digestive tract. The umbrella term for both conditions is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Crohn’s disease is most common in the small intestine, and ulcerative colitis occurs in the large intestine.

There is no clear cause of IBD, but it occurs due to a weakened immune system. Genetics may also play a role. Symptoms of IBD include:

Indigestion

Indigestion is a group of symptoms that affect the gastrointestinal (GI) system. Indigestion can cause abdominal pain, but this usually occurs in the upper part of the abdomen.

In most cases, indigestion is mild and does not cause complications. Symptoms of indigestion include:

  • a burning sensation
  • slight pain or discomfort in the abdomen
  • heartburn
  • bloating
  • gas
  • uncomfortable fullness after eating a meal

People may wish to try over-the-counter (OTC) indigestion relief medications.

If people have other symptoms alongside indigestion, it may indicate a more serious condition. People will need to see a doctor if indigestion lasts longer than 2 weeks, or if they also experience:

Shingles

The same virus that causes chickenpox causes shingles. Once a person has had chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body for the rest of their life. Sometimes, the virus can reactivate, causing pain and a rash that may wrap around one side of the abdomen.

Symptoms of shingles include:

A person may feel tenderness and itchiness on one area of the skin before the rash appears. They may also experience a fever, chills, headache, or upset stomach. Shingles pain may vary from mild to severe.

Doctors usually prescribe antiviral medications for shingles, such as valacyclovir and acyclovir. Additionally, oatmeal baths or cool cloths for the skin may help ease discomfort.

Vaccines are available to help reduce the risk of a person developing shingles later in life.

IBS

IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder. Symptoms of IBS may include:

Changes to the nerves and muscles relating to the gut cause IBS. Stress and anxiety may worsen IBS, so relaxation and regular exercise can help. People may also with dietary changes, increasing dissolvable fiber intake, and avoiding foods that trigger symptoms.

Hernia

A hernia occurs when an organ or other body part pushes through the abdominal wall. A bulge may appear in the midsection or near the groin.

Different types of hernias can occur, and they vary according to the underlying cause. If people have symptoms of a hernia, they will need to see a doctor to find out what type of hernia it is and what treatment they may require.

Symptoms of a hernia can include:

  • a bulge in the abdomen or groin
  • pain or aching in the hernia area
  • pressure at the site of the hernia
  • increasing discomfort when straining the abdomen

Inguinal hernia

An inguinal hernia usually occurs in the groin area. They are more common in males but can affect females too.

Inguinal hernias can cause complications without treatment, so it is important to see a doctor for a diagnosis as soon as possible. People will usually need surgery to repair an inguinal hernia.

Constipation

Constipation occurs when a person cannot pass a stool, passes hard stools, or passes stools fewer than 3 times a week.

It may occur due to a lack of exercise, fiber, or fluids. Certain medications or IBS can also cause constipation. A person may treat constipation by improving their diet, doing regular exercise, and increasing fluid intake.

Symptoms of constipation include:

  • abdominal pain
  • straining or pain when passing stool
  • dry, hard stools
  • having fewer than three bowel movements in a week
  • bloating or discomfort
  • feeling sluggish

Kidney stones

Most kidney stones occur due to calcium buildup and can form in either the right or left kidney.

A person may develop a kidney stone and not realize they have it until the stone causes problems, such as blocking part of the kidney or causing severe pain as it passes.

Typical symptoms of kidney stones include:

Intestinal obstruction

When a blockage occurs in the intestine, food cannot pass through the digestive tract as normal. This results in an obstruction that needs immediate medical attention. Hernias and medical conditions affecting the intestines can lead to intestinal obstruction.

People with conditions such as IBD or colon cancer or who have had abdominal surgery may be more at risk of intestinal obstruction.

A person will need to contact a doctor straight away if they have these symptoms of intestinal obstruction:

  • severe abdominal pain
  • inability to pass stool
  • swollen abdomen
  • vomiting
  • loud noises from the stomach

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy can occur if a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube. As the pregnancy progresses, this can cause the fallopian tube to burst, which can be life threatening.

Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include:

  • mild pain or cramping in the abdomen or pelvis
  • lower back pain
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding

These symptoms can develop into severe abdominal or pelvic pain, shoulder pain, and dizziness. Ectopic pregnancy is an emergency, and people will require immediate medical attention.

Learn more about female anatomy here.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a common condition that can affect females. Endometriosis occurs when tissue, which is similar to the lining of the uterus, grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis may occur due to menstrual cycle problems, genetic factors, or problems with the immune system.

The main symptom of endometriosis is pain, which can include:

  • painful menstrual cramps
  • abdominal pain
  • pain in the lower back and pelvis
  • pain during or after sex
  • during periods, painful bowel movements, or pain when urinating

People may also have bleeding between periods, stomach issues, and difficulty with fertility. Hormone treatments, and in severe cases surgery, can help manage endometriosis symptoms.

To diagnose persistent or severe abdominal pain, a doctor can use a variety of techniques to explore the possible causes and identify a course of treatment. These include:

Identifying certain abdominal problems may require repeat visits and close follow-ups.

Once a primary care physician makes a diagnosis, they may refer the individual to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist, who will be able to provide more focused care.

The type of treatment will depend on the condition causing the pain. A person should speak with a doctor to determine suitable treatment for their condition.

Lower abdominal pain due to an infection, such as diverticulitis, will often require medications and resting as treatment.

Other, more structural, problems, such as a hernia or an intestinal blockage, may require surgery.

Treatment for constipation and gas often includes basic dietary adjustments and, in severe cases, laxatives. For more chronic lower abdominal pain, such as the pain in IBS or IBD, more careful, long-term dietary management can help to manage symptoms.

Treatment for food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance, often involves excluding that food from the diet.

People should speak with a doctor about any abdominal pain that is persistent or severe or if they have concerns about any symptoms. People will also need to see a doctor if they have:

  • blood in stools
  • persistent diarrhea, constipation, or change in bowel movements
  • unexplained weight loss

A doctor will need to examine chronic or persistent pain to find out the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan.

In many cases, a person is not likely to experience any lasting effects from abdominal pain.

If the abdominal pain is due to a chronic condition, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, a doctor can help a person develop a treatment plan to improve their symptoms in the long term.

People may experience lower left abdominal pain for a range of reasons. Some causes can be temporary, but in some cases, the pain may be a sign of a chronic condition. People should speak with a doctor about any persistent or severe symptoms.

Treatments will depend on the underlying cause but may include lifestyle changes, medications, or surgery.