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 more-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, or episodic, meaning it may come and go. This type of pain may be present for weeks to months, or even years. Some conditions cause progressive pain, which steadily gets worse over time.


The various conditions that cause acute abdominal pain are usually accompanied by other symptoms and 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 (herpes zoster infection)
  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. Gallstones
  5. Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
  6. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  7. Hiatal hernia
  8. Inguinal hernia
  9. Irritable bowel syndrome
  10. Mittelschmerz (ovulation pain)
  11. Functional dyspepsia
  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.

April 25, 2019

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. Blighted ovum: What causes it?
  20. Botulism
  21. Dr. Wallace Video
  22. 4 Ways to Prevent Heart Attack
  23. Mayo Clinic - Holiday Heart Attack and Stroke Risk
  24. C. difficile infection
  25. Calcium supplements: A risk factor for heart attack?
  26. Carcinoid tumors
  27. Cardiogenic shock
  28. Celiac disease
  29. Celiac disease: Can gluten be absorbed through the skin?
  30. Celiac disease diet: How do I get enough grains?
  31. Chagas disease
  32. Chlamydia trachomatis
  33. Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)
  34. Cholecystitis
  35. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  36. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  37. Colon cancer
  38. Colon Cancer Family Registry
  39. Colon cancer screening: At what age can you stop?
  40. Colon cancer screening
  41. Colon polyps
  42. Constipation in children
  43. Crohn's Crisis
  44. Crohn's disease
  45. Crohn's disease symptom: Is fatigue common?
  46. Crohn's or Colitis
  47. Cyclic vomiting syndrome
  48. Dengue fever
  49. Diabetic ketoacidosis
  50. Diabetic neuropathy
  51. Diabetic neuropathy and dietary supplements
  52. Types of diabetic neuropathy
  53. Diarrhea
  54. Diverticulitis
  55. E. coli
  56. Ectopic pregnancy
  57. Egg allergy
  58. Encopresis
  59. Enlarged liver
  60. Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  61. Eosinophilic esophagitis
  62. Epididymitis
  63. Esophagitis
  64. Feeling gassy and a little embarrassed?
  65. Fibromuscular dysplasia
  66. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
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  72. Gallbladder cancer
  73. Gallbladder cleanse: A 'natural' remedy for gallstones?
  74. Gallstones
  75. Gas and gas pains
  76. Gastroenteritis: First aid
  77. GI Stents
  78. Giardia infection (giardiasis)
  79. Gonorrhea
  80. H. Pylori
  81. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection
  82. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
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  84. Heart attack
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  87. Heart Attack Timing
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  89. Henoch-Schonlein purpura
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  91. Hepatitis B
  92. Hives and angioedema
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  94. Hyperglycemia in diabetes
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  97. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
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  100. Intestinal obstruction
  101. Irritable bowel syndrome
  102. Ischemic colitis
  103. Kawasaki disease
  104. Kidney infection
  105. Lactose intolerance
  106. Preventing lead exposure
  107. Lead poisoning
  108. Liver cancer
  109. Infographic: Liver Cancer
  110. Liver cysts: A cause of abdominal pain?
  111. Liver disease
  112. Liver hemangioma
  113. Infographic: Liver Transplant Bile Duct Cancer
  114. Mayo Clinic Minute: Avoiding summer E. coli infection
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  116. Median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS)
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  118. Mental health providers: Tips on finding one
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  120. Mesenteric lymphadenitis
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  122. Milk allergy
  123. Miscarriage
  124. Mittelschmerz
  125. Nervous stomach: Is there such a thing?
  126. Neuroblastoma
  127. New Test for Preeclampsia
  128. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  129. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  130. Norovirus infection
  131. NSAIDs: Do they increase my risk of heart attack and stroke?
  132. Living with an ostomy
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  134. Ovarian cysts and infertility: A connection?
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  137. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancer: Minimally Invasive Surgery
  138. Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
  139. Pancreatic cancer treatment: Why is it so challenging?
  140. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancers-Whipple
  141. Pancreatic cysts
  142. Pancreatitis
  143. Pelvic congestion syndrome
  144. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  145. Peritonitis
  146. Pheochromocytoma
  147. Pinworm infection
  148. Placental abruption
  149. Plague
  150. Porphyria
  151. Postpartum preeclampsia
  152. Preeclampsia
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  155. Primary sclerosing cholangitis
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  158. Researchers Develop New Stents for Complex Aortic Aneurysms
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  160. Ruptured spleen
  161. Salmonella infection
  162. Salt craving: A symptom of Addison's disease?
  163. Scrotal masses
  164. STD symptoms
  165. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  166. Shellfish allergy
  167. Shigella infection
  168. Silent heart attack
  169. Small vessel disease
  170. Spastic colon: What does it mean?
  171. STD testing
  172. Symptom Checker
  173. Tapeworm infection
  174. Testicular torsion
  175. Toxic hepatitis
  176. Traveler's diarrhea
  177. Trichinosis
  178. Triple X syndrome
  179. Typhoid fever
  180. Ulcerative colitis
  181. Ulcerative colitis flare-ups: 5 tips to manage them
  182. Vasculitis
  183. Vesicoureteral reflux
  184. Cryotherapy
  185. How irritable bowel syndrome affects you
  186. Radiofrequency ablation
  187. What is meant by the term "heart age"?
  188. What's causing my infant's diarrhea?
  189. Whipple's disease
  190. Wilms' tumor
  191. Yellow fever
  192. Fecal transplant treatment of C. difficile at Mayo Clinic
  193. Mayo Clinic study reporting increased incidence of C. difficile infection
  194. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome