Abdominal pain has many potential causes. The most common causes — such as gas pains, indigestion or a pulled muscle — usually aren't serious. Other conditions may require urgent medical attention.

While the location and pattern of abdominal pain can provide important clues, its time course is particularly useful when determining its cause.

Acute abdominal pain develops and often resolves over a few hours to a few days. Chronic abdominal pain may be intermittent (episodic), meaning it may come and go. This type of pain may be present for weeks to months, or even years. Some chronic conditions cause progressive pain, which steadily gets worse over time.


The various conditions that cause acute abdominal pain are usually accompanied by other symptoms that develop over hours to days. Causes can range from minor conditions that resolve without any treatment to serious medical emergencies, including:

  1. Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  2. Appendicitis
  3. Cholangitis (bile duct inflammation)
  4. Cholecystitis
  5. Cystitis (bladder inflammation)
  6. Diabetic ketoacidosis
  7. Diverticulitis
  8. Duodenitis (inflammation in the first part of the small intestine)
  9. Ectopic pregnancy (in which the fertilized egg implants and grows outside of the uterus, such as in a fallopian tube)
  10. Fecal impaction (hardened stool that can't be eliminated)
  11. Heart attack
  12. Injury
  13. Intestinal obstruction
  14. Intussusception (in children)
  15. Kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
  16. Kidney stones
  17. Liver abscess (pus-filled pocket in the liver)
  18. Mesenteric ischemia (decreased blood flow to the intestines)
  19. Mesenteric lymphadenitis (swollen lymph nodes in the folds of membrane that hold the abdominal organs in place)
  20. Mesenteric thrombosis (blood clot in a vein carrying blood away from your intestines)
  21. Pancreatitis (pancreas inflammation)
  22. Pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue around the heart)
  23. Peritonitis (infection of the abdominal lining)
  24. Pleurisy (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the lungs)
  25. Pneumonia
  26. Pulmonary infarction (loss of blood flow to the lungs)
  27. Ruptured spleen
  28. Salpingitis (inflammation of the fallopian tubes)
  29. Sclerosing mesenteritis
  30. Shingles
  31. Spleen infection
  32. Splenic abscess (pus-filled pocket in the spleen)
  33. Torn colon
  34. Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  35. Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu) (stomach flu)

Chronic (intermittent, or episodic)

The specific cause of chronic abdominal pain is often difficult to determine. Symptoms may range from mild to severe, coming and going but not necessarily worsening over time. Conditions that may cause chronic abdominal pain include:

  1. Angina (reduced blood flow to the heart)
  2. Celiac disease
  3. Endometriosis
  4. Functional dyspepsia
  5. Gallstones
  6. Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
  7. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  8. Hiatal hernia
  9. Inguinal hernia
  10. Irritable bowel syndrome
  11. Mittelschmerz (ovulation pain)
  12. Ovarian cysts
  13. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  14. Peptic ulcer
  15. Sickle cell anemia
  16. Strained or pulled abdominal muscle
  17. Ulcerative colitis


Abdominal pain that steadily worsens over time, often accompanied by the development of other symptoms, is usually serious. Causes of progressive abdominal pain include:

  1. Cancer
  2. Crohn's disease (a type of inflammatory bowel disease)
  3. Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  4. Gallbladder cancer
  5. Hepatitis
  6. Kidney cancer
  7. Lead poisoning
  8. Liver cancer
  9. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  10. Pancreatic cancer
  11. Stomach cancer
  12. Tubo-ovarian abscess (pus-filled pocket involving a fallopian tube and an ovary)
  13. Uremia (buildup of waste products in your blood)

Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.

July 03, 2021

See also

  1. Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  2. Acute liver failure
  3. Addison's disease
  4. Adrenal fatigue: What causes it?
  5. Alcoholic hepatitis
  6. Alpha-gal syndrome
  7. Anaphylaxis
  8. Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  9. Aortic aneurysm
  10. Appendicitis
  11. Ascariasis
  12. AskMayoMom Pediatric Urology
  13. Barrett's esophagus
  14. Barrett's Study Results
  15. Behcet's disease
  16. Belching, intestinal gas, gas pains and bloating
  17. Bile reflux
  18. Bladder stones
  19. Blastocystis hominis
  20. Blighted ovum: What causes it?
  21. Botulism
  22. Dr. Wallace Video
  23. 4 Ways to Prevent Heart Attack
  24. Mayo Clinic - Holiday Heart Attack and Stroke Risk
  25. C. difficile infection
  26. Calcium supplements: A risk factor for heart attack?
  27. Carcinoid tumors
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  29. Celiac disease
  30. Celiac disease: Can gluten be absorbed through the skin?
  31. Celiac disease diet: How do I get enough grains?
  32. Chagas disease
  33. Chlamydia trachomatis
  34. Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)
  35. Cholecystitis
  36. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  37. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  38. Colon cancer
  39. Colon Cancer Family Registry
  40. Colon cancer screening: At what age can you stop?
  41. Colon cancer screening
  42. Colon polyps
  43. Constipation in children
  44. Crohn's Crisis
  45. Crohn's disease
  46. Crohn's disease symptom: Is fatigue common?
  47. Crohn's or Colitis
  48. Cyclic vomiting syndrome
  49. Dengue fever
  50. Diabetic ketoacidosis
  51. Diabetic neuropathy
  52. Diabetic neuropathy and dietary supplements
  53. Types of diabetic neuropathy
  54. Diarrhea
  55. Diverticulitis
  56. E. coli
  57. Ectopic pregnancy
  58. Egg allergy
  59. Encopresis
  60. Enlarged liver
  61. Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  62. Eosinophilic esophagitis
  63. Epididymitis
  64. Esophagitis
  65. Feeling gassy and a little embarrassed?
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  73. Gallbladder cancer
  74. Gallbladder cleanse: A 'natural' remedy for gallstones?
  75. Gallstones
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  77. Gastroenteritis: First aid
  78. GI Stents
  79. Giardia infection (giardiasis)
  80. Gonorrhea
  81. H. Pylori
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  85. Heart attack
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  88. Heart Attack Timing
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  101. Intestinal obstruction
  102. Irritable bowel syndrome
  103. Ischemic colitis
  104. Kawasaki disease
  105. Kidney infection
  106. Lactose intolerance
  107. Preventing lead exposure
  108. Lead poisoning
  109. Liver cancer
  110. Infographic: Liver Cancer
  111. Liver cysts: A cause of abdominal pain?
  112. Liver disease
  113. Liver hemangioma
  114. Infographic: Liver Transplant Bile Duct Cancer
  115. Mayo Clinic Minute: Avoiding summer E. coli infection
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  117. Median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS)
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  119. Mental health providers: Tips on finding one
  120. Mental illness
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  124. Miscarriage
  125. Mittelschmerz
  126. Nervous stomach: Is there such a thing?
  127. Neuroblastoma
  128. New Test for Preeclampsia
  129. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  130. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  131. Norovirus infection
  132. NSAIDs: Do they increase my risk of heart attack and stroke?
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  134. Ovarian cysts
  135. Ovarian cysts and infertility: A connection?
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  138. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancer: Minimally Invasive Surgery
  139. Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
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  141. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancers-Whipple
  142. Pancreatic cysts
  143. Pancreatitis
  144. Pelvic congestion syndrome
  145. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  146. Peritonitis
  147. Pheochromocytoma
  148. Pinworm infection
  149. Placental abruption
  150. Plague
  151. Porphyria
  152. Postpartum preeclampsia
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  154. Pregnancy loss
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  157. Proctitis
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  161. Ruptured spleen
  162. Salmonella infection
  163. Salt craving: A symptom of Addison's disease?
  164. Scrotal masses
  165. STD symptoms
  166. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  167. Shellfish allergy
  168. Shigella infection
  169. Silent heart attack
  170. Small vessel disease
  171. Spastic colon: What does it mean?
  172. STD testing
  173. Symptom Checker
  174. Tapeworm infection
  175. Testicular torsion
  176. Toxic hepatitis
  177. Traveler's diarrhea
  178. Trichinosis
  179. Triple X syndrome
  180. Typhoid fever
  181. Ulcerative colitis
  182. Ulcerative colitis flare-ups: 5 tips to manage them
  183. Vasculitis
  184. Vesicoureteral reflux
  185. Cryotherapy
  186. How irritable bowel syndrome affects you
  187. Radiofrequency ablation
  188. What is meant by the term "heart age"?
  189. What's causing my infant's diarrhea?
  190. Whipple's disease
  191. Wilms' tumor
  192. Yellow fever
  193. Fecal transplant treatment of C. difficile at Mayo Clinic
  194. Mayo Clinic study reporting increased incidence of C. difficile infection
  195. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome