7 Causes of Sharp Pain on the Left Side of the Stomach.
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Summary: What you need to know.
The most common causes of sharp pain on the left side of the stomach include:
- The left kidney and ureteric pain.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Acute diverticulitis.
- Inflammatory bowel disease.
- Infectious colitis.
- Left ovarian cysts, tumors, or inflammation.
- Left fallopian tube ectopic pregnancy or inflammation.
- Left abdominal muscle strain.
- Left splenic abscess, infarction, or rupture.
- And many other less common causes.
1. Left kidney and left ureter pain.
The left kidney and ureteric pain are known as (renal colics). It is one of the most common causes of sharp stomach pain (right or left). The sudden onset of sharp pain on the left side of your stomach may indicate a left kidney or ureteric stone.
- The most common cause of renal colics is kidney stones which affect about 5-15% of people (reference).
- Insertion or removal of ureteric stents (double J stents) in patients with ureteric obstruction.
- Acute papillary necrosis: death of the papillary part of the kidney, often due to severe infection or diabetes.
- Severe kidney infection or infection of the obstructed kidney (pyelonephritis).
- Renal abscess.
- Renal artery stenosis or renal vein thrombosis.
- Kidney trauma or hematoma.
- Other less common causes include ureteropelvic junction obstructions, prostatic enlargement, abdominal or pelvic cancer blocking the ureter, and retroperitoneal fibrosis. However, these cases rarely result in acute renal colic (sharp stomach pain on the left side).
Characteristics of kidney and ureteric pain:
- Sudden onset sharp stomach pain on the left side (left flank pain).
- The pain from the kidney is often dull, while the pain from the ureteric spasms is very sharp and stitching in character.
- The episode of ureteric pain often starts at the left side of your stomach (left abdominal pain), and it may radiate to the left lower abdomen and the left groin.
- The pain intensity is very high and lasts for several minutes.
- Nausea, vomiting, and fainting may also occur during the pain episode.
- No position or posture will relieve the pain. Also, moving doesn’t increase the intensity of pain.
- Dysuria (burning urination), altered color or urine (turbid or reddish urine), and severe urination urgency occur.
- Some may pass the stones in the urine or the toilet.
Renal colic with such intensity needs an evaluation by your doctor. The pain may go away and come again. It often responds to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
2. Left colon Conditions causing sharp pain.
Several diseases and conditions in the descending or sigmoid colon lead to sharp left-side stomach pain. The most common causes are explained below:
A. Acute diverticulitis.
Diverticulae are sac-like projections in the wall of the colon. They are widespread in Asians.
Diverticular disease is common, and its incidence increase with age. About 60% of people older than 60 have diverticula in their colon.
Eventually, one or more diverticula inflame, form abscesses, or even perforate. As a result, severe sharp stomach pain occurs. The left lower stomach is the most common site of diverticulitis pain (reference).
Other symptoms include blood in stool, fever, and changes in bowel habits. It is worth mentioning that diverticular disease can cause pain in the left lower stomach without inflammation (diverticulitis) (reference).
B. Irritable bowel syndrome.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a widespread disease affecting over 15% of people worldwide (reference).
The hallmark of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is recurrent abdominal pain and change in bowel habits.
IBS pain can be abnormally sharp. Typically, it is diffuse, but it can localize in the left stomach area in a minority of patients (See this interesting article about the typical and atypical IBS pain locations).
Learn more about IBS and how it is diagnosed.
C. Acute infectious colitis.
Infections gut tract may present with sharp abdominal pain. In addition, some infectious organisms may prefer the colon and cause sharp left-sided and lower stomach pain when the descending and sigmoid colon are affected.
The predominant symptom is diarrhea. In addition, mucus and blood in the stool may present if the infection is predominantly in the left side of the colon.
D. IBD (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis).
Inflammatory bowel disease is characterized by unexplained inflammation and ulceration of:
- The colon only (ulcerative colitis).
- The entire gastrointestinal tract (Crohn’s disease).
According to the CDC, about 1.3% of adults (around 3 million) reported being diagnosed with IBD (reference).
Sigmoid or left colon ulcerative colitis can cause sharp left stomach pain.
Symptoms of IBD:
- Persistent diarrhea.
- Mucus and blood in the stool.
- A frank rectal bleeding.
- Sharp abdominal pain: can occur at any site, including the lower left abdomen.
- Generalized fatigue.
- Unexplained weight loss and sometimes unexplained fever.
MORE: Sigmoid Colon Pain: Location and Causes.
3. Left ovarian pain (females only).
In females, The left ovary can be a source of sharp pain in the left stomach area. However, the pain is often pelvic and lower abdominal.
Causes of left ovary pain include:
- A left ovarian cyst (the cyst can be complicated with bleeding or infection).
- A left ovarian tumor (benign or malignant tumors).
- Endometriosis causes left ovarian pain.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease on the left side.
- Dull or sharp pain in the lower left abdomen.
- Menstrual irregularities.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Pain during intercourse or bowel movements.
- Feeling full after eating small amounts.
- Unexplained weight loss (with ovarian cancers).
Learn more about ovarian pain and its relation to sharp stomach pain.
4. Left fallopian tube pain (females only).
Some diseases affecting the left fallopian tube can result in sharp stomach pain in the left lower abdomen as the ovary.
- Left tubal pregnancy (ectopic pregnancy).
- Left pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Salpingitis (inflammation of the fallopian tube) is due to various causes, mainly gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Regarding ectopic pregnancy the fallopian tubes are the most common site of ectopic pregnancy. As the pregnancy grows, it may cause a rupture of the left fallopian tube resulting in sharp left lower stomach pain.
Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include:
- Sharp left lower stomach (abdominal) pain.
- Vaginal bleeding.
- Absence of menses (amenorrhea).
- Pain on moving or bending.
- Positive preganacy test.
5. Muscular pain.
Muscular pain is one of the most common and straightforward causes of sharp pain in the left stomach.
If you have abdominal muscle strain, you may feel sharp pain or tenderness whenever you move or bend.
Abdominal muscle strains are usually caused by vigorous strain, workouts, carrying heavy objects, or prolonged heavy physical efforts.
Symptoms of abdominal muscle strain (in the left stomach area):
- Sharp pain (usually starts suddenly at the moment of strain and continues).
- Fixed in intensity, increases significantly by moving, bending, or straining.
- It may affect your walking or movements in general.
- Sometimes, you may experience swelling or bruising at the site of strain.
Sharp left lower abdominal pain caused by muscle strain usually resolves within a few days.
6. Splenic pain.
The spleen lies in the left upper quadrant of your abdomen. Many conditions affecting the spleen can result in left stomach pain.
The most common splenic condition is the enlargement of the spleen. It occurs due to various causes, such as infections and blood disease. However, the pain from an enlarged spleen is often dull and not sharp or severe.
Sharp pain in the left stomach due to the spleen can result from:
- Acute infections and splenic abscesses.
- Splenic infarction (The death of a part of the whole spleen). Infarction often occurs due to the obstruction of the blood supply.
- Splenic rupture: most often occurs due to trauma and road traffic accidents.
- Left rib cage pain.
- Pancreatic pain.
- Left colorectal cancer.
- Fecal impaction.
- Mesenteric vascular occlusion.
- Intestinal obstruction.
- Renal artery stenosis.
- Acute papillary necrosis.
- Renal hematoma.
- Ureteropelvic obstruction.
- Any mass or growth on the left side of your abdomen.
- Painful skin diseases such as Herpes Zoster.