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)

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. 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
  28. Cardiogenic shock
  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. Ease the pain of diabetic neuropathy
  58. Ectopic pregnancy
  59. Egg allergy
  60. Encopresis
  61. Enlarged liver
  62. Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  63. Eosinophilic esophagitis
  64. Epididymitis
  65. Esophagitis
  66. Feeling gassy and a little embarrassed?
  67. Fibromuscular dysplasia
  68. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
  69. Food allergies: Labels
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  74. Gallbladder cancer
  75. Gallbladder cleanse: A 'natural' remedy for gallstones?
  76. Gallstones
  77. Gas and gas pains
  78. Gastroenteritis: First aid
  79. GI Stents
  80. Giardia infection (giardiasis)
  81. Gonorrhea
  82. H. Pylori
  83. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection
  84. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
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  86. Heart attack
  87. Heart attack prevention: Should I avoid secondhand smoke?
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  89. Heart Attack Timing
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  93. Hepatitis B
  94. Hives and angioedema
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  96. Hyperglycemia in diabetes
  97. IBD and colon cancer: How often do you need screening?
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  99. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  100. Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
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  102. Intestinal obstruction
  103. Irritable bowel syndrome
  104. Ischemic colitis
  105. Kawasaki disease
  106. Kidney infection
  107. Lactose intolerance
  108. Preventing lead exposure
  109. Lead poisoning
  110. Liver cancer
  111. Infographic: Liver Cancer
  112. Liver cysts: A cause of abdominal pain?
  113. Liver disease
  114. Liver hemangioma
  115. Infographic: Liver Transplant Bile Duct Cancer
  116. Managing diabetic neuropathy complications
  117. Mayo Clinic Minute: Avoiding summer E. coli infection
  118. Mayo Clinic Minute: What you need to know about polyps in your colon
  119. Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness
  120. Mental health providers: Tips on finding one
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  122. Mesenteric lymphadenitis
  123. Mesothelioma
  124. Milk allergy
  125. Miscarriage
  126. Mittelschmerz
  127. Nervous stomach: Is there such a thing?
  128. Neuroblastoma
  129. New Test for Preeclampsia
  130. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  131. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  132. Norovirus infection
  133. NSAIDs: Do they increase my risk of heart attack and stroke?
  134. Living with an ostomy
  135. Ovarian cysts
  136. Ovarian cysts and infertility: A connection?
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  139. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancer: Minimally Invasive Surgery
  140. Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
  141. Pancreatic cancer treatment: Why is it so challenging?
  142. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancers-Whipple
  143. Pancreatic cysts
  144. Pancreatitis
  145. Pelvic congestion syndrome
  146. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  147. Peritonitis
  148. Pheochromocytoma
  149. Pinworm infection
  150. Placental abruption
  151. Plague
  152. Porphyria
  153. Postpartum preeclampsia
  154. Preeclampsia
  155. Pregnancy loss
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  157. Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  158. Proctitis
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  160. Researchers Develop New Stents for Complex Aortic Aneurysms
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  162. Ruptured spleen
  163. Salmonella infection
  164. Salt craving: A symptom of Addison's disease?
  165. Scrotal masses
  166. STD symptoms
  167. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  168. Shellfish allergy
  169. Shigella infection
  170. Silent heart attack
  171. Small vessel disease
  172. Spastic colon: What does it mean?
  173. STD testing
  174. Symptom Checker
  175. Tapeworm infection
  176. Testicular torsion
  177. Toxic hepatitis
  178. Traveler's diarrhea
  179. Trichinosis
  180. Triple X syndrome
  181. Typhoid fever
  182. Ulcerative colitis
  183. Ulcerative colitis flare-ups: 5 tips to manage them
  184. Vasculitis
  185. Vesicoureteral reflux
  186. Cryotherapy
  187. How irritable bowel syndrome affects you
  188. Radiofrequency ablation
  189. What is meant by the term "heart age"?
  190. What's causing my infant's diarrhea?
  191. Whipple's disease
  192. Wilms' tumor
  193. Yellow fever
  194. Fecal transplant treatment of C. difficile at Mayo Clinic
  195. Mayo Clinic study reporting increased incidence of C. difficile infection
  196. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome