Learn about causes of abdominal pain specific to women, as well as other potential causes that can affect both men and women.
Menstruation is the most common cause of abdominal pain in women. If your menstrual cycle is accompanied by painful cramps, the condition is called dysmenorrhea. Most women experience menstrual cramps at some point in their lives, and it typically is not something to worry about unless the pain is so severe that it hinders your daily activities.
Management includes conservative treatment such as heat pads, moderate exercise, and rest. Some people may need to take analgesics for pain relief.
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac inside an ovary. Although most ovarian cysts don’t cause symptoms, large ovarian cysts can cause abdominal pain and frequent urination if they compress the bladder.
An ovarian cyst that ruptures can cause severe pain and internal bleeding. You should seek medical help if you experience sudden severe abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, lightheadedness, or signs of shock.
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that lines the inside of your uterus grows on the outside instead. During your menstrual cycle, the tissue thickens and bleeds but becomes trapped in the body, which can cause abdominal pain, especially during your menstrual period.
Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized ovum implants in places other than the uterus. It usually occurs in the fallopian tube, whose function is to connect ovaries to the uterus. Symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Missed period or other signs of pregnancy
- Vaginal bleeding or watery discharge
- Discomfort during urination and bowel movements
Pelvic inflammatory disease
What are other common causes of lower left abdominal pain?
Abdominal pain can affect both men and women and may be caused by conditions such as:
- Gastritis: Gastritis can lead to abdominal discomfort and is often caused by smoking, overeating, alcohol consumption, lack of vitamin B12, etc. Management includes proton-pump inhibitors, such as rabeprazole and pantoprazole.
- Constipation: Constipation can cause bloating, flatulence, and abdominal cramps. Other symptoms include heartburn and nausea. Management includes diet modifications, medications, and fiber supplements.
- Hernia: A hernia is the protrusion of an internal organ through the surrounding tissue that can cause a lump or bulge to appear in the abdomen. Other symptoms of hernia include a feeling of fullness, reduction in the size of the bulge on lying, movement of the bulge on coughing, dull aching sensation, pain when lifting, etc. Management includes surgical intervention such as herniorrhaphy, hernioplasty, and herniotomy.
- Kidney stones: Kidney stones are commonly caused by recurrent urinary infections, dehydration, or the genetic tendency of developing stones. Pain due to kidney stones starts in the abdomen and radiates to the back. Other symptoms include:
- Diverticulitis: Diverticula are small pouches in the intestine that are created due to pressure over weak spots in the colon. When these pouches tear, swell, or get infected, it can cause significant pain in the abdomen. Management consists of dietary modifications and surgery in severe cases.
Other causes of lower left abdominal pain include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Food intolerance or allergy (such as lactose intolerance)
- Aortic aneurysm in the abdomen (bulging and weakening of the major artery in the body)
- Obstruction or blockage of the bowels
- Cancers of the stomach or colon
- Cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation) with or without gallstones
- Blood flow to the intestines is reduced (ischemic bowel)
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas (swelling or infection of the pancreas)
- Gastric or duodenal ulcers
- Urinary tract infections
What are different types of abdominal pain?
Generalized abdominal pain: Pain that affects more than half of the abdomen is referred to as generalized pain. This type of discomfort is more commonly associated with a stomach illness, indigestion, or gas. If the pain becomes severe, it could be caused by a blockage of the intestines.
Localized abdominal pain: Pain that is restricted to a single area of the abdomen is called localized pain. It is more likely to indicate an issue with an organ such as the appendix, gallbladder, or stomach.
Cramps: Pain that feels like a cramp is typically not serious and often caused by gas and bloating. More concerning symptoms include pain that occurs more frequently, lasts longer than 24 hours, or is accompanied by a fever.
Colicky pain: Pain that comes in waves is called colicky pain. It frequently begins and ends abruptly, and it is often severe. This form of stomach pain is commonly caused by kidney stones and gallstones.
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University of Michigan Health System. Abdominal Pain, Age 12 and Older. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/abdpn
Cleveland Clinic. What’s Causing Your Lower Abdominal Pain? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/whats-causing-your-lower-abdominal-pain/
Gotfried J. Chronic Abdominal Pain and Recurring Abdominal Pain. MSD Manuals. https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-in/home/digestive-disorders/symptoms-of-digestive-disorders/chronic-abdominal-pain-and-recurring-abdominal-pain
Gray J, Wardrope J, Fothergill DJ. 7 Abdominal pain, abdominal pain in women, complications of pregnancy and labour. Emerg Med J. 2004 Sep;21(5):606-13. https://emj.bmj.com/content/21/5/606
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