Almost everyone has some abdominal pain during their lifetime. Most of the time, the pain is not due to any serious medical condition. Even if the pain is severe, it could be due to gas or a viral infection. On the other hand, there can be mild abdominal pain with conditions that are more serious.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease. Colitis means the inflammation of the colon, and with this disease there is inflammation in two of the layers of the intestines. This causes the intestines to become swollen and form ulcers and pseudopolyps. Pseudopolyps are not true polyps. They are pieces of one of the layers that hang off the intestines. The inflammation can be in any part of the intestines, but it always begins in the rectum and moves upward in a continuous way, not skipping over any part of the intestinal wall. It can cause pain in the lower left abdomen, as explained by David Sachar, M.D., director emeritus at Mt. Sinai Hospital, in “The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals.” People usually have bloody diarrhea. They may have mild cramps but if there are a lot of ulcers, they usually have severe cramping and more than 10 bowel movements a day.
Colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon and the rectum, is the second highest cause of cancer death, with approximately 149,000 people diagnosed in 2008 and 50,000 deaths, according to Patricia Cornett, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of California in “Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment.” Risk factors include adenomatous polyps, ulcerative colitis, hereditary polyp disease, and a diet high in fats and low in fiber. A polyp is a growth that sticks out from the inside wall of the intestines. Adenomatous polyps are benign growths that have glandular tissue. Colorectal cancer can grow in the right or left colon. Cancer in the left colon is painful because the bowel movement has formed by the time it reaches the left side, and the cancer interferes with the feces. People may also have constipation and blood in their stool.
Diverticulitis is the inflammation of the diverticula. These are small herniations or pockets in the intestinal wall. They form because the pressure inside of the intestines is too high. This can happen for several reasons, including from eating a low-fiber diet. A diet low in fiber does not stretch the large intestines enough, writes Richard Blumberg, M.D., professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in “Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Gastroenterology, Hepatology, & Endoscopy.” When diverticula form, they can become filled with feces. The feces get trapped and cannot be eliminated with the rest of the bowel movement. This results in inflammation. Some people do not have any symptoms. Most have constipation, gas, fever and pain in the lower left abdomen.
- “Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Gastroenterology, Hepatology, & Endoscopy”; Norton Greenberger, M.D.; 2009
- “Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2010”; Stephen McPhee, M.D., Maxine Papadakis, M.D.; 2010
- The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals: Ulcerative Colitis