Does an elderly family member have a lower left, sharp pain in the abdomen that hurts upon touching?

If so, take this person to the emergency room.

This is what happened to my father.

The pain greatly intensified if he rose from a seat and began moving

What made him decide to visit the ER was a sensation of fecal impaction, even though he’d been having bowel movements. The diagnosis was diverticulitis.

For the two weeks preceding the ER diagnosis, my father had noticed a suppressed appetite. Diverticulitis can cause this.

About two weeks after he began losing his appetite, he awoke from the middle of a nap with chills, and didn’t think anything of this, other than why didn’t my mother notice this and put a blanket on him (he didn’t appear cold while he slept on his side).

However, unable to truly nap, he took to sitting before a heater for quite a while. This is very uncharacteristic of my father.

That’s when he told me his stomach was upset, and that lately he’d been feeling some bloating. A little while later that day, he felt feverish. His temperature was just over 100.

A fever is another classic symptom of diverticulitis. Oddly, his temperature returned to normal after several hours. We thought it was a transient “bug.”

A week later, my mother called me, asking if I could drive him to the ER. He was having sharp pains in the lower abdomen, but also pain (though not sharp) in the upper left side and lower middle.

He was convinced he had fecal impaction (severe constipation), and had been experiencing this sensation for a few weeks, trying to solve it with laxatives, but they weren’t working.

A blood draw revealed an elevated white blood cell count, which indicates infection.

The doctor kept pressing (palpating) his lower left abdominal area, and he’d jerk and wince from the pain. Diverticulitis was suggested as a possible cause, but a diagnosis wasn’t made at that point. A CAT scan was ordered.

“You have diverticulitis,” the doctor said some time later. The treatment was antibiotics and a temporary change in diet.

Though young people can get diverticulitis, one of the risk factors is increased age.

Lower left belly pain in an elderly person, especially if it really hurts to press on the area, should never be tolerated, even if you think it’s probably diverticulitis.

This condition can lead to a rupture, which requires emergency surgery.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 
Top image: Shutterstock/ Olena Yakobchuk