What Pain in the Organs on the Left Side of the Body May Mean for Your Health

When you are experiencing pain on the left side of your body, it could be an indicator of many different things.  The organs on the left side of the body include the stomach, liver, pancreas, left kidney, adrenal glands, and some sections of the colon. The pain that could be coming from any of these organs could be severe, indicating a chronic and serious condition. On the other hand, the pain could be indicating a minor issue that will pass in time, such as gas. At the same time, if the pain is caused by something such as appendicitis, you need to have that pain treated quickly.

When you are experiencing lower left abdominal pain or pain from any of the vital organs on the left side of the body, you want to identify the area of the pain quickly. That will help you to determine what is next in your pain issue and what human organs on the left side of your body are not well. Although the pain could be inconsequential such as gas or menstrual cramps, pain on the left side of the body could be an indicator of a fatal event, such as a ruptured appendix or a heart attack. Learn more about what pain on the left side of the body could mean, and how to tend to it.

Examining the Organs of the Left Abdomen

The vital organs on the left side of the body include the colon, the pancreas, the left kidney, the stomach, and the spleen. Although a vestigial organ, the appendix is also found here if you still have yours. The heart is also on the left side of the body. When you have lower left abdominal pain or pain in one of the organs on the left side of the body, you’ll want to identify it as soon as possible.

Among the most common innocuous causes of pain in the left side of the body are gas and indigestion. You may be able to determine whether or not you have gas or indigestion quickly and easily, particularly if you have experience having gas issues. If you have pain in the left side of the body that feels like bloating and cramping, this could be gas. Assess the diet and what you have eaten that day or the day before, and you may be able to identify the source of the gas. This condition is typically treated very quickly and can be treated at home or with over-the-counter remedies. This too shall pass!

If you are not struggling with gas, there may be a number of other conditions that are causing pain in the left side of the body. For women, ovarian or menstrual cramps are very common pain on the left side, and also are innocuous issues that can be treated quickly and at home. You may experience some ovarian pain once a month approximately two weeks before your period. That is your body ovulating and is typically pain that won’t last more than a few hours or that day. Menstrual cramps feel very similar. For any of these pains on the left side of your body, some ibuprofen or at-home remedies for cramping such as red raspberry leaf tea can help to alleviate these cramps. These cramps also will pass within a few hours or days and are not indicators of a serious problem.

For men, pain on the left side can be a little more serious if it is involving one of the male organs. You may have inflammation of the left testicle or you may have something more serious known as testicular torsion which is a twisting of the blood vessels inside the testicles. There may be some swelling or pain or pressure in this area. You might also have a sexually transmitted disease here. If you are not sure what is causing this pain, or have recently been injured, contact a doctor or go to your emergency room for help as this could be an indicator of a condition that you can not treat at home.

These conditions are among the least invasive conditions that are a source of left-sided organ pain. Many of these things can be treated at home, while some can not. Other conditions such as appendicitis, pancreatitis, diverticulitis, and other conditions, must be treated by medical professionals. As soon as you experience pain that you can not identify, go to the emergency room and seek help. A medical situation such as appendicitis could result in a ruptured organ and sepsis if you do not seek health care options quickly.

Conditions Resulting in Left-Sided Pain

In addition to conditions such as appendicitis, there are other conditions that result in left-sided pain that could be an indicator of a serious condition. You have many vital organs on the left side of your body. All of the organs on the left side of the body could be damaged permanently if you do not seek help if pain cannot be treated at home. For any kind of lower left abdominal pain where gas has been ruled out, talk to a doctor to see what they can do to alleviate the pain and the underlying cause of the disorder.

Another serious problem with left-sided pain could be a ruptured or damaged spleen. In this case, you have a damaged organ that likely needs surgical intervention. This is a common problem during sports. What many people do not know is that this problem could not occur until weeks after the injury initially occurs. You will feel pain behind the left rib and it will feel bruised and tender there. Other indicators are a faster heart rate as your heart works a little harder to get blood to this organ. You’ll also likely experience some dizziness.  An injured spleen may not always be ruptured, but it could be inflamed. You’ll have very similar symptoms and are at risk of an infection if it is not already inflamed. For spleen issues, surgery is often the only remedy.

A man experiences left side organ pain

Diverticulitis is another common condition of the left-sided organs that can be a minor or serious condition. With this condition, symptoms are going to be very similar to conditions you may have already had that meant nothing, such as gas, constipation, and maybe some vomiting. You may also experience diarrhea here. In this condition, a small pouch is formed in the colon all along the colon wall. The pain can be severe, but can also be alleviated by a trip to the bathroom or within a few days. This is a condition that one will often have for life and is typically treated with dietary adjustments and at-home treatment and control.

A heart attack is among the most serious conditions connected to left-sided organ pain. This occurs when an artery that is bringing blood to the heart becomes blocked due to fatty tissues or buildup in the artery. Blood brings oxygen to the heart, so when an artery is blocked, the heart will suffer, and so will you. You may start by feeling pain in the left arm that feels like a squeezing pressure, much like a blood pressure cuff. You may also have a cold sweat and some pressure in your chest. You need to call 911 or get to a hospital as soon as this happens without delay.

A kidney infection is another serious condition that could result in pain on the left side of the body. This organ filters your blood and rids it of waste and excretes extra waste from the body through the bladder. This organ also helps to control your fluid levels in the body. When this organ is taxed with an infection, you will have left-sided back pain, a fever, and may experience some vomiting and nausea. General lethargy can be associated with this. Your urine may also be darker in color and have a different odor than usual. This can easily be treated with antibiotic medication. However, it may need to be intravenous if the infection has gone on too long.

Pancreatitis is another condition that could be serious and could be a lifelong problem. This is a condition that occurs when the pancreas is inflamed. If you suffer from chronic gallstones or gallbladder issues or consume a lot of alcohol, you may be at risk of pancreatitis. This organ aims to help you digest food by releasing enzymes into the small intestine. If the pancreas releases the enzymes into the pancreas instead, you will experience pancreatitis. This could be a serious condition that results in infection and bleeding, and even permanent damage to the pancreas which will result in lifelong pain. You may have problems eating or experience indigestion, and see stools that are darker in color. You’ll also have a lot of gas while you are experiencing this.

Treatment and Left Side Significance

Whenever you are experiencing lower left abdominal pain, or pain on the left side for any reason, you want to have that checked out. For most of these conditions, antibiotic treatment can be the fastest remedy. If you are experiencing an inflamed organ, you may also require intravenous antibiotics to alleviate symptoms of the infection quickly. This will help you to treat the infection and lower your risk of sepsis, an internal blood infection that could be fatal. For serious infections, a short hospital stay on antibiotic medication will be necessary.

Other conditions such as heart attack or spleen rupture or damage will need surgery. A spleen or pancreatic rupture is going to mean a small tear in the organ, which will need to be repaired. Heart attacks will require surgery in order to unblock the arteries that are blocking the flow of oxygen to the heart. All of these conditions are serious, with the risk of surgery increasing their level of seriousness. Still, these are among the most common health problems facing Americans today, and they are very easily treated.

Contact Your Doctor

Pain on the left side of the body is an indicator that something is wrong. Because we have vital organs on the left side of the body, it is important to have that pain looked at. The pain may be caused by something minor such as gas or menstrual or ovary cramping, but depending on the pain, it could also be a ruptured organ or a heart attack. Contact your doctor when you have left-sided pain.

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers is currently a Resident in the Internal Medicine program at UTMB. He studied at the University of Queensland School of Medicine as well as received his Master’s in Public Health with a focus in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Southern California. His background is in biology, computer science, public health, and internal medicine.

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  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/spleen-problems-and-spleen-removal/
  2. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diverticulosis-diverticulitis/symptoms-causes
  3. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/warning-signs-of-a-heart-attack
  4. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/sprains-strains-and-other-soft-tissue-injuries/
  5. https://www.premiermedicalhv.com/divisions/services/pancreatitis/