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

The location and pattern of abdominal pain can provide important clues, but how long it lasts is especially useful when figuring out its cause.

Acute abdominal pain develops and often goes away over a few hours to a few days. Chronic abdominal pain 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.


Conditions that cause acute abdominal pain usually happen at the same time as other symptoms that develop over hours to days. Causes can range from minor conditions that go away without any treatment to serious medical emergencies, including:

  1. Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  2. Appendicitis
  3. Cholangitis, which is inflammation of the bile duct.
  4. Cholecystitis
  5. Cystitis (bladder inflammation)
  6. Diabetic ketoacidosis
  7. Diverticulitis
  8. Duodenitis, which is inflammation of the top 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, which is hardened stool that can't be passed.
  11. Heart attack
  12. Injury
  13. Intestinal obstruction
  14. Intussusception (in children)
  15. Kidney infection (also called pyelonephritis)
  16. Kidney stones (hard objects that form due to chemicals in urine)
  17. Liver abscess, a 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, a blood clot in a vein carrying blood away from your intestines.
  21. Pancreatitis
  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 — an infection in one or both lungs.
  26. Pulmonary infarction, which is loss of blood flow to the lungs.
  27. Ruptured spleen
  28. Salpingitis, which is inflammation of the fallopian tubes.
  29. Sclerosing mesenteritis
  30. Shingles
  31. Spleen infection
  32. Splenic abscess, which is a 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 getting worse 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 (a type of inflammatory bowel disease)


Abdominal pain that steadily worsens over time is usually serious. This pain often leads to the development of other symptoms. Causes of progressive abdominal pain include:

  1. Cancer
  2. Crohn's 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, which is a 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.

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July 15, 2023

See also

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  2. Acute liver failure
  3. Addison's disease
  4. Adrenal fatigue: What causes it?
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  11. Appendicitis
  12. Ascariasis
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  31. Chlamydia trachomatis
  32. Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)
  33. Cholecystitis
  34. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  35. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  36. Colon cancer
  37. Colon Cancer Family Registry
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  50. Diabetic ketoacidosis
  51. Diabetic neuropathy
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  54. Diarrhea
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  56. E. coli
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