Upper Left Abdominal Pain

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Are you or your loved one suffering with an upper left abdominal pain? What could be causing pain here and what treatments are there to overcome pain in this part of the abdomen?

Upper left abdominal pain is pain occurring in the abdomen, to the left of a line drawn from the left nipple to the level of the umbilicus or belly button. It is also called left upper abdominal quadrant pain. This part of the abdomen houses the spleen, tail end of the pancreas, part of the large intestines or bowel, part of the stomach, left kidney, left lower ribs and muscles and skin over these structures. The heart sits just above this point too.

Other organs found in this region include the left edge of the liver, upper part of the left ureter, the left adrenal gland, and the tip of the left lung behind. The aorta passes down just on the side of the mid line, and can be found in the upper left abdomen if it becomes distended as in aortic aneurysm.

Any problem in these structures or near by ones will cause upper left abdominal pain.

Causes of upper left abdominal pain would therefore include:

  • Herpes Zooster or Shingles affecting the skin over the upper left abdomen

  • Viral infection of the lower left ribs - left coastochondritis or tiez syndrome

  • Strained muscle over the upper left abdomen

  • Injury to the spleen or splenic tumour

  • Stomach ulcer or tumour

  • Pancreatitis

  • Hepatitis or cyst or tumour affecting the left lobe of the liver

  • Infection of the left kidney - called pyelonephritis - very common

  • Left kidney stone - very common too

  • Left kidney tumour, cyst or disease

  • Left ureteric stone or tumour -

  • Adrenal gland disease on the left

  • Left bowel inflammation or tumour

  • Infection affecting the lower part of the left lung - lower lobe pneumonia of left lung

  • Heart problems

  • Trapped wind

  • ... and sometimes a ruptured or leaking abdominal aortic aneurysm

We shall discuss some of these causes of left upper quadrant abdominal pain briefly here and in more details under their respective section.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Leaking or ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm arises if the large blood vessel called the aorta that carries blood away from the heart become distended along its course in the abdomen and then starts to leak or even ruptures with or without warning. Ordinarily, this causes severe central abdominal pain, which typically spreads to the back. Patient may collapse suddenly, and become pale, cold and blood pressure drops. On occasions, the pain may be felt more to the left side of the abdomen, thus causing upper left abdominal pain. To find out more about abdominal aortic aneurysm, please read on here

Bowel Cancer
Cancer affecting the left side of the bowel could cause upper left abdominal pain, if the part of the colon affected is the beginning of the descending colon called splenic flexture. The symptoms expected would include weight loss, change in bowel habit, tending towards more constipation, poor appetite, and feeling generally weak. These symptoms may continue over months. Mind you, there are other conditions that would present like this (Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, chronic constipation, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, to mention a few), and cause upper left abdiominal pain. It is only wise to see your doctor immediately if you are unwell.

Food Poisoning
After a meal in a restaurant, depending on the type of bug, left side abdominal pain could start within 1 hour to 48 hours. There would be associated feeling of vomiting or actual vomiting plus or minus fever. It could be from contamination of food with chemical gents. Please read about this cause of upper left abdominal pain here

Gastric volvulus
Gastric volvulus is a condition involving the stomach twisting upon itself. It is a recognized cause of central or upper left abdominal painThe twist may be a flip over of one side on the other, along the axis of the two ends of the stomach, called organ axial volvulus (more common variant), or may be a flip of the upper part of the stomach on the end of stomach, called mesentero-axial volvulus (less common). A combination of both types may occur in an individual. Volvulus of the stomach is very rare. It can occur at any age. It is commoner in adults. Childhood gastric volvulus account for up to 20% of stomach volvulus, and more than half of these occurs before the first one year of life. Please read more about gastric volvulus here
This is a very rare but possible disease. It affects less than 200,000 people in the United States. It is a cause of abdominal pain, which could be upper left abdominal pain. Other symptoms associated with this condition include purple spots on the skin, joints and kidney problems. It is usually preceded by the occurrence of cold-like illness weeks before the emergence of the purple rashes. It is commoner in children, with boys been more affected than girls.

Kidney Stones
Stone any where down the kidney or ureters, which are the tubes that drain urine from the kidneys, could cause severe pain. This can cause upper left abdominal pain if the stone is on the upper part of the left ureter. The pain tends to be very strong, some describing it as the most severe pain they have ever felt. The pain often wakes people up from the sleep early in the morning, or just from the blues while doing something else. You may find yourself seeking various positions to easy the pain, but usually to no avail. There may be vomiting, and the pain could spread from the loin (upper side of the body wall) to the groin (towards the genitals). In some men, the pain could spread to the tip of the penis! Please read more about kidney stone here

Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis
Infection of the kidney on the left side could cause upper left abdominal pain too. The patient is usually unwell, may be feverish, and vomiting, with pain especially in the upper to lower abdomen, worse on gently hitting the lower back. The doctor will easily diagnose this with a few examinations and tests. The character of pain here is different from that with kidney stone, and usually may have been on-going for some days.

Commonly, pancreatitis begins with pain in the upper central abdomen, above the umbilicus (belly button). If the body or tail of the pancreas is more affected, this could present as an upper left side abdominal pain. Pancreatitis in most cases is triggered by alcohol ingestion a couple of days earlier. It could start without any seeming trigger too. The pain could start suddenly or over quarter of an hour to a few hours, building up progressively. Please read more on pancreatitis here

Pancreatic Cancer
Cancer affecting the head, body or tail of the pancreas could easily lead to left side abdominal pain. Other associated symptoms would include weight loss, jaundice, change in bowel habit, pale stool, and lack of appetite.

Lower lobe pneumonia, or inflammation of the lower part of the lung, can present, on the left side as upper left abdominal pain.Patient typically will have this crushing or sharp upper left abdominal pain, fever, and cough. The cough may be productive of yellowish or brown sputum or mucus. Please read about pneumonia here

Transverse colon volvulus
Volvulus involving the transverse colon could present as left abdominal pain. It is often dramatic in onset, and would cause symptoms like those of intestinal obstruction. This is though a rare cause of intestinal obstruction, and in very fatal. Please read about this here

Trapped Wind

Excess wind or trapped wind in the large bowel or stomach can cause lower or even upper left abdominal pain respectively. The symptoms would include feeling well, but bloated, crampy abdominal pain, loud bowel noises, and this bloating and pain is relieved by passing wind from the anus (farting). Please read more about this common cause of left sided abdominal pain here

Other things that can cause upper left abdominal pain include infection of the spleen, accidents involving the spleen, malaria infection, and musculoskeletal pain.

If you have specific question regarding upper left abdominal pain, please do not hesitate to contact your online doctor on upper left abdominal pain issues.

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