Abdominal pain occurs in the area between your chest and your pelvis, and is something that everyone has experienced. It can be as simple as a little tummy ache to more severe medical conditions depending on how much pain there is and how persistent it is. Your abdominal pain can be acute and short lived. However, there are many cases in which abdominal pain is chronic, lasting for days, weeks or even months. Hopefully, if you are experiencing chronic abdominal pain you will not wait months before seeking medical help.
Pain in the upper left side of your abdomen, often referred to as upper left quadrant pain, is usually indicative of something wrong with the organs and/or tissue structures located on that area of the torso. Part of your bowel, your spleen, the end part of the pancreas, part of the stomach, the left part of your liver, the left side of your kidneys, a portion of your ureter, the left adrenal gland, part of your left lung, the lower portion of your left ribs, the aorta, many muscles and skin are all located in this upper left quadrant of your abdomen. Your heart is also situated just above this area. Any issue or condition in any of these organs, bones, tissues or muscles will directly cause pain in this area, which will be discussed in detail below.
Most Common Causes of Upper Left Abdominal Pain
Since so much of your abdominal organs and muscles are found in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen, there are many conditions and injuries that can cause abdominal pain to be experienced there. Here you will find information on the most common causes found.
- Acute pancreatitis is an inflammation of your pancreas due to large meal to an over-excessive consumption of alcohol. Using certain medication excessively or even traumatic injuries can be the culprits for acute pancreatitis as well. Symptoms include abdominal pain, first and foremost, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, fever and nausea.
- Splenomegaly. Pain in your upper left abdominal area can also mean that you are suffering from an enlarged spleen, also known as splenomegaly. Viral, bacterial and other parasitic infections are direct causes of splenomegaly. Leukemia and liver cirrhosis can cause an enlarged spleen as well.
- Gastroenteritis is another common cause for upper abdominal pain and is typically the most seen. Also known as the stomach flu, this inflammation of the stomach is caused by a virus or bacterial infection. Viral germs as well as contaminated food and water are often the culprits here. Common symptoms other than abdominal pain include nausea, vomiting, dehydration, diarrhea and a loss of appetite.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, affects the lower intestinal tract and causes extreme bowel discomfort. It can be characterized by extreme cases of diarrhea or constipation and affects people of all ages, with the most common group being adolescent women.
- Pyelonephritis is a kidney infection due to bacteria. Upper left abdominal pain is accompanied by fever, chills and vomiting. Do not confuse kidney infections with kidney stones as their causes are different and treatments will vary.
- Pneumonia is another common reason for abdominal pain and is caused by a virus, bacteria or fungus. Swelling will be present in the lower left part of the lungs, causing pain and difficulty breathing. Chest pains, fever, chills and harsh coughing are also common symptoms.
- Polycystic kidney disease. You can also experience severe abdominal pain from polycystic kidney disease in which painful cysts will develop on your kidneys. This can lead to serious health conditions like high blood pressure and renal kidney failure.
- Food poisoning comes from ingesting contaminated food or drinks and will result in abdominal pain anywhere from 1-48 hours after ingestion. Vomiting, nausea and fever are common symptoms as well.
- Excess wind can become trapped in your large bowel or stomach and cause abdominal pain and discomfort. Swelling, bloating and cramps will occur, and passing wind will help alleviate the pain.
Medical Causes of Upper Left Abdominal Pain
Left upper quadrant or LUQ pain can originate from various causes. Some causes for these pains may not be localized accurately, so bear in mind that the area that hurts may not be directly in line with the internal issue that is causing pain. Below is a list of common medical causes for LUQ pain.
- Thoracic Causes - Characterized by cardiac and/or respiratory pains.
- Abdominal Causes - An aortic rupture, spleen malfunction or abnormality, gastric ulcers, kidney disease, colon pain, pancreatic discrepancies, and issues in the diaphragm or peritoneum, like abscesses or peptic ulcers.
- Chest and Abdominal Wall - Localized muscular and skeletal pain, sometimes due to chronic diseases, you will experience spinal pain from illnesses such as shingles.
- Other Medical Causes- These include, but are not solely limited to, diabetic ketoacidosis, septicaemia, hypercalcaemia, Henoch-Schonlein purpura, hereditary angio-oedema, and porphyria.
Any of the above mentioned issues and causes requires medical attention and treatment. Medical professionals will assess your symptoms and most likely run a few tests and scans for further diagnosis and to figure out a course of treatment. Bear in mind the issues listed above are NOT likely to be self treatable.
Diagnosis and Treatments for Upper Left Abdominal Pain
Physical exams, x-rays or CT scans are the most effective methods to diagnose the cause of your abdominal pain. Blood and urine tests may also be done for diagnosis purposes.
Your treatments will depend primarily on the cause for your abdominal pain. Most of the time dehydration will occur, so doctors will want to control that first either through electrolytic fluids drinken orally or from a fluid drip. Antibiotics are helpful in treating most of the diseases listed above and diuretics are used to treat kidney problems.