Almost every man will experience pain somewhere in the abdomen at some time during his life. Pain in the lower left side of the abdomen in men may be due to several causes. Digestive tract disorders, such as ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis or colorectal cancer, may be the culprit. Urinary tract problems affecting the bladder or the left kidney or ureter may also cause lower left abdominal pain. Many of the causes of lower left abdominal pain are serious, so see your doctor if you have persistent or severe pain in this area.
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Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. In ulcerative colitis, the colon becomes inflamed and open sores called ulcers develop in the lining of the colon. The ulcers eventually heal but will reappear when the disease flares up. Repeated episodes of ulceration and healing lead to the production of scar tissue, which sometimes projects from the lining of the colon as a pseudopolyp. Ulcerative colitis always begins in the rectum and then moves upward into the left side of the colon as the disease worsens. Lower left abdominal pain is common and often accompanied by bloody diarrhea.
Inflammation of diverticula in the bowel causes diverticulitis. Diverticula are small pockets in the intestinal wall. They are common in older people but do not cause symptoms unless they become inflamed. Inflammation occurs when pieces of stool become trapped in a diverticula. A diet low in fiber predisposes to diverticula and diverticulitis. Pain in the lower left abdomen is common with diverticulitis, and fever may occur as well.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that about 50,000 people in the United States will die of cancer of the colon or rectum -- colorectal cancer -- in 2017. This represents the second highest number of deaths due to cancer, with only lung cancer causing more deaths. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include ulcerative colitis, adenomatous colon polyps, a diet high in fats and low in fiber and having relatives with adenomatous colon polyps or colorectal cancer. Adenomatous polyps are a type of growth projecting from the lining of the colon. They are benign but may become cancerous. Colorectal cancer in the rectum or left colon may cause pain in the left lower abdomen. Cancer in this area may also cause constipation as the tumor impedes the normal forward flow of stool. Bloody stools and unexplained weight loss may also occur.
Bladder and Kidney Disorders
Pain in the left lower abdomen may sometimes be caused by an infection in the bladder or left kidney. A fever and cloudy, bloody or foul-smelling urine may also occur with these infections. A stone in the left ureter -- the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder -- may cause left lower abdominal pain. These stones can be extremely painful and may also cause nausea, vomiting or blood in the urine. Occasionally a left kidney tumor will cause pain in the left lower abdomen.
In addition to ulcerative colitis, other types of colitis may produce left lower abdominal pain if they affect the left side of the colon. These include colitis caused by infection or colitis due to decreased blood flow to the colon -- called ischemic colitis. Bloody stools are common with ischemic colitis. Irritable bowel syndrome can cause pain anywhere in the abdomen, including the left lower abdomen. People with this disorder also have ongoing problems with diarrhea, constipation or both. Sometimes pain in the left lower abdomen is due to a strained muscle. It may also be caused by irritation of a nerve in the area due to a spine problem, such as a herniated disc.
Reviewed by: Mary D. Daley, MD
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Merck Manual Professional Version: Ulcerative Colitis
- National Cancer Institute: Cancer Stat Facts -- Cancer of Any Site
- Merck Manual Professional Version: Colonic Diverticulitis
- American Cancer Society: Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Colorectal cancer
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Diverticulitis – Overview
- WebPath: Colon, adenocarcinoma arising in villous adenoma, gross
- WebPath: Colon, diverticulosis, gross
- WebPath: Chronic ulcerative colitis, gross