Pain in Left Side Under Ribs

What can cause pain under ribs? Is this an obvious symptom of one specific ailment or many things that could cause it?

Last Updated Jun 22, 2013.

Pain in left side under ribs can have more than one cause, some more serious than others. Because of this it is not something to fool around with. It is not necessary to panic but you don’t want to ignore it.

Since the pain is under the rib cage you have to consider it serious until you know for certain otherwise. The rib cage protects many vital organs including the heart. It is not necessary to conclude that any pain of this type is heart related but you will want to rule it out.

Aside from heart disease there are many other causes of this kind of pain and the majority of them are not serious. Simple heartburn could be one cause.  A little more serious than simple heartburn is acid reflux. With either of these there is a fairly simple medication treatment.

There is also the possibility that gas is caught in the colon. This is even less serious that acid reflux and does not require medication to resolve it.

Sharp pain left side under ribs might come from a condition called costochondritis. This condition is caused by a viral infection and more often than not is confused with a heart attack due to the sharp pain it causes. The reason this condition is so painful is due to the infection having lodged in the cartilages binding the ribs to the breastbone. This condition can also be caused by an inflammation in the same area. Auto-immune diseases can be the root cause here.

Of course other things that could cause this might be a broken rib or bruised ribs. Irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis or stomach ulcers are also possible causes. All of these are serious conditions but none of them are life threatening. In this same category of being serious but not potentially fatal are intestinal infections.

There are however some very serious illnesses that can cause this pain in left side under ribs. These would include pneumothorax, pancreatitis, and dissection of the abdominal aorta. It could also be a spleen disorder, kidney stones, or pericardritis (inflammation of the heart sac).

Pneumothorax occurs when the lungs collapse because of a rupture in the membrane of the lungs. A cavity then forms between the rib cage and the lungs and when air is trapped there it can cause extreme pain. This is a very serious medical condition that requires attention immediately.

Pancreatitis on the other hand may be chronic or acute. In its acute stage it can be deadly. The chronic form can become something you have to live with and monitor your eating to keep the inflammation and pain under control. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas and can be caused by eating very fatty foods.

If the left side pain under ribs is caused by a dissection of the abdominal aorta, your life is in immediate danger. Dying from an internal hemorrhage is the major risk involved in this situation. It would be vital to get immediate medical attention, probably a blood transfusion and surgery to stop the internal bleeding.

Finally we end where we began with the possibility of heart disease. There is a very real possibility even if it is the smallest of all the odds that the pain is caused by a heart attack or some form of heart disease that is causing a blockage.

No matter the actual cause whenever you have pain in left side under ribs you need to pay attention to and see a medical professional as soon as possible.

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