Most women and men suffer from abdominal pain at some point. When generalized, or affecting more than half the abdomen (defined as the area between the groin and chest), it is rarely indicative of a medical concern, according to the National Institutes of Health. Generalized abdominal pain is likely a symptom of gas, indigestion, or a stomach virus. Cramping sensations likewise usually indicate minor stomach problems. However, when abdominal pain is severe and localized (affecting a specific area of the abdomen), it is more likely a sign or symptom of a serious health problem calling for medical attention.
Common Causes of Severe Lower Left Side Abdominal or Stomach Pain in Men and Women:
Kidney Problems and Lower Left Quadrant Abdominal Pain
A kidney infection, a type of urinary tract infection (UTI), can cause severe lower left side abdominal pain in men and women. Other common symptoms include fever, frequent urge to urinate and/or frequent urination, a burning sensation during urination, blood or pus in the urine, and pain in the back, side, or groin.
Kidney stones are hardened accumulations of minerals and acid salts in the kidneys. Pain may also manifest in the groin, side, or lower back. Other signs include nausea and vomiting, painful urination, strong urges to urinate, and red, pink, or brown urine.
Digestive Problems and Lower Left Quadrant Abdominal Pain
An inflammatory bowel condition, Crohn’s disease causes a variety of stomach problems, including mild intestinal discomfort to cramps to severe lower left side abdominal pain in both men and women. Other signs and symptoms include chronic diarrhea, bloody stools, ulcers, loss of appetite and weight, fevers, fatigue, skin disorders, arthritis, and inflammation of the eyes, liver, or bile ducts. Crohn’s disease can also cause inhibited physical and sexual development in children.
Diverticulitis is an inflammatory disorder affecting the diverticula in the digestive tract. Sudden, severe pain in the lower left side of the abdomen is a common symptom in men and women. Other signs include bowel movement irregularities, constipation or diarrhea, abdominal tenderness, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Rarely, bloating and rectal bleeding are seen with diverticulitis.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affecting the digestive tract that can causes severe lower left side abdominal or stomach pain in men and women. Different forms of the condition can also present with rectal pain and bleeding, constipation, strong urges to defecate, bloody diarrhea, cramps, fatigue, and weight loss.
Blockages in the small intestine or colon can prevent the necessary passage of food and liquids through the digestive tract, causing severe, intermittent lower left side abdominal pain. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal tenderness or swelling, severe constipation, and inability to pass gas are other symptoms of an intestinal obstruction.
Other Problems and Lower Left Quadrant Abdominal Pain
This condition, which can affect men and women, is marked by a weak, bulging section of the major blood vessel called the aorta. Along with severe lower left side abdominal pain, other possible symptoms include pain or tenderness elsewhere in the abdomen or in the chest or back and a pulsating sensation in the vicinity of the belly button.
This condition usually entails part of the intestine protruding through a tear in the lower abdominal wall. Severe pain in the lower left side of the abdomen generally occurs when coughing, lifting, or bending over. A bulge is generally noticeable near the pubic bone where the protrusion is, and there may be a heavy sensation in the groin. Men sometimes experience swelling or pain in the scrotum as well.
Common Causes of Severe Lower Left Side Abdominal or Stomach Pain Specific to Women:
Endometriosis describes overgrowth of the lining of the uterus, or endometrium. Along with severe lower left side abdominal pain, women may experience abnormal pelvic pain and cramps before and during periods, pelvic pain during intercourse, ovulation, urination, and bowel movements, heavier menstrual bleeding, and bleeding between periods.
This is a condition causing painful ovulation. The surest indication is pain on one side of the lower abdomen occurring consistently mid-way between periods. Pain may be sharp or dull, and is sometimes accompanied by vaginal bleeding or discharge.
Fluid-filled sacs on an ovary can cause severe lower left side abdominal pain in women. Often, however, the condition causes no signs or symptoms. When it does, they may also include menstrual irregularities, constant or intermittent pelvic pain, particularly around periods and during intercourse or bowel movements, nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, a full sensation in the abdomen, and pressure on the rectum or bladder.
This condition describes attachment of a fertilized egg elsewhere besides the lining of the uterus. Women with an ectopic pregnancy will eventually experience symptoms such as severe lower abdominal pain on one side, pelvic cramps on one side, and vaginal bleeding. The fallopian tubes may rupture as well, causing sharp stabbing pains in the lower abdomen or pelvis, dizziness, or a lightheaded sensation.
This article is not a substitute for a medical evaluation. Severe lower left side abdominal pain may be indicative of a medical emergency. Also, the fact that abdominal pain is generalized does not provide assurance that nothing serious is wrong.
Sources for this article: The National Institutes of Health on Abdominal Pain and The Mayo Clinic on Causes of Abdominal Pain.