A woman may experience left-sided abdominal pain for a variety of reasons. Some are bothersome but harmless. Others, such as a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, can be immediately life threatening. Your age and medical history can play a major role in helping you determine the most likely causes. For instance, a 60-year-old postmenopausal woman would not experience mittelschmerz, the pain associated with ovulation. If you are experiencing left-sided pain, your doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis.
Various problems in the gastrointestinal system have the potential to cause abdominal pain on the left side. If you drink alcohol excessively or have gallstones, you are at increased risk of developing an inflamed pancreas. Another condition, diverticulitis, typically occurs in middle-aged or older women when pockets in the colon, called diverticuli, become infected. Irritable bowel syndrome commonly causes intermittent abdominal pain beginning in the late teens or early 20s, while most women with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's or ulcerative colitis) start having their symptoms between the ages of 15 and 40. Gastroenteritis, or infectious diarrhea, can strike at any age.
Kidney and Reproductive Organ Causes
A woman may experience pain anywhere along her urinary tract, from her left kidney to the ureter that drains it to the bladder itself. Common causes of urinary tract pain include pain from a kidney stone, a kidney infection or a simple bladder infection. Women of menstruating age may experience the pain of mittelschmerz around the time they ovulate. However, many other disorders of the reproductive tract can cause pain as well, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, endometriosis and ovarian cysts.
A wide variety of unrelated conditions can cause left-sided abdomen pain. For instance, herpes zoster may impact the skin and underlying nerves of many different areas of the body, including the abdomen. A slipped disk can compress the nerves of the abdomen, causing pain, and any mass on the left side of a woman's body can cause pain by pressing on other abdominal structures.
Sometimes when a woman feels pain on the left side of the abdomen, it really originates from a problem elsewhere, such as the heart or lungs.
When to See a Doctor
Several warning signs should prompt you to seek medical attention. For instance, a high fever or shaking chills may be the result of a serious infection. If you have severe vomiting or diarrhea, you may become dehydrated quickly. If your pain is severe or begins abruptly, you should also be concerned. You should seek urgent medical attention if you notice any signs of internal bleeding, such as bloody or tarry stools, or if you vomit a substance that appears bloody or looks like coffee grounds.
- UpToDate.com: Classification and Diagnosis of Gastritis and Gastropathy
- Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2014; Maxine A. Papadakis and Stephen J. McPhee
- UpToDate.com: Definition, Epidemiology, and Risk Factors in Inflammatory Bowel Disease