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
  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. Blind loop syndrome
  22. Botulism
  23. Dr. Wallace Video
  24. 4 Ways to Prevent Heart Attack
  25. Fibromuscular Dysplasia- Patient Experience, Struggles and Living with FMD
  26. Fibromuscular Dysplasia- Explanation, Treatments and Resources
  27. Mayo Clinic - Holiday Heart Attack and Stroke Risk
  28. C. difficile infection
  29. Calcium supplements: A risk factor for heart attack?
  30. Carcinoid tumors
  31. Cardiogenic shock
  32. Celiac disease
  33. Celiac disease: Can gluten be absorbed through the skin?
  34. Celiac disease diet: How do I get enough grains?
  35. Chagas disease
  36. Chlamydia trachomatis
  37. Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)
  38. Cholecystitis
  39. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  40. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  41. Colon cancer
  42. Colon Cancer Family Registry
  43. Colon cancer screening: At what age can you stop?
  44. Colon cancer screening
  45. Colon polyps
  46. Constipation in children
  47. Crohn's Crisis
  48. Crohn's disease
  49. Crohn’s disease: Can prebiotics help?
  50. Crohn's disease symptom: Is fatigue common?
  51. Crohn's or Colitis
  52. Cyclic vomiting syndrome
  53. Dengue fever
  54. Diabetic ketoacidosis
  55. Diabetic neuropathy
  56. Diabetic neuropathy and dietary supplements
  57. Types of diabetic neuropathy
  58. Diarrhea
  59. Diverticulitis
  60. Does smoking have an effect on Crohn's disease?
  61. E. coli
  62. Ease the pain of diabetic neuropathy
  63. Eating well when you have Crohn's disease
  64. Ectopic pregnancy
  65. Egg allergy
  66. Encopresis
  67. Enlarged liver
  68. Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  69. Eosinophilic esophagitis
  70. Epididymitis
  71. Esophagitis
  72. Feeling gassy and a little embarrassed?
  73. Fibromuscular dysplasia
  74. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
  75. Food allergies: Labels
  76. Food allergy
  77. Food allergy later in life
  78. Food allergy or intolerance?
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  80. Gallbladder cancer
  81. Gallbladder cleanse: A 'natural' remedy for gallstones?
  82. Gallstones
  83. Gas and gas pains
  84. Gastroenteritis: First aid
  85. GI Stents
  86. Giardia infection (giardiasis)
  87. Gonorrhea
  88. H. Pylori
  89. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection
  90. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
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  92. Heart attack
  93. Heart attack prevention: Should I avoid secondhand smoke?
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  95. Heart Attack Timing
  96. Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)
  97. Henoch-Schonlein purpura
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  99. Hepatitis B
  100. Hives and angioedema
  101. Hypercalcemia
  102. Hyperglycemia in diabetes
  103. IBD and colon cancer: How often do you need screening?
  104. Indigestion
  105. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  106. Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
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  108. Intestinal obstruction
  109. Irritable bowel syndrome
  110. Ischemic colitis
  111. Kawasaki disease
  112. Kidney infection
  113. Lactose intolerance
  114. Preventing lead exposure
  115. Lead poisoning
  116. Liver cancer
  117. Infographic: Liver Cancer
  118. Liver cysts: A cause of abdominal pain?
  119. Liver disease
  120. Liver hemangioma
  121. Infographic: Liver Transplant Bile Duct Cancer
  122. Living well with Crohn's disease
  123. Managing diabetic neuropathy complications
  124. Mayo Clinic Minute: Avoiding summer E. coli infection
  125. Mayo Clinic Minute: What you need to know about polyps in your colon
  126. Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness
  127. Mental health providers: Tips on finding one
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  132. Miscarriage
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  138. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  139. Norovirus infection
  140. NSAIDs: Do they increase my risk of heart attack and stroke?
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  142. Ovarian cysts
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  146. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancer: Minimally Invasive Surgery
  147. Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
  148. Pancreatic cancer treatment: Why is it so challenging?
  149. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancers-Whipple
  150. Pancreatic cysts
  151. Pancreatitis
  152. Pelvic congestion syndrome
  153. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  154. Peritonitis
  155. Pheochromocytoma
  156. Pinworm infection
  157. Placental abruption
  158. Plague
  159. Porphyria
  160. Postpartum preeclampsia
  161. Preeclampsia
  162. Pregnancy loss
  163. Primary biliary cholangitis
  164. Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  165. Proctitis
  166. Pseudomembranous colitis
  167. Researchers Develop New Stents for Complex Aortic Aneurysms
  168. Resources to help you live well with Crohn's disease
  169. Rotavirus
  170. Ruptured spleen
  171. Salmonella infection
  172. Salt craving: A symptom of Addison's disease?
  173. Scrotal masses
  174. STD symptoms
  175. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  176. Shellfish allergy
  177. Shigella infection
  178. Silent heart attack
  179. Small vessel disease
  180. Spastic colon: What does it mean?
  181. Staying active with Crohn's disease
  182. STD testing
  183. Symptom Checker
  184. Tapeworm infection
  185. Testicular torsion
  186. Tips for easing stress when you have Crohn's disease
  187. Toxic hepatitis
  188. Traveler's diarrhea
  189. Trichinosis
  190. Triple X syndrome
  191. Typhoid fever
  192. Ulcerative colitis
  193. Ulcerative colitis flare-ups: 5 tips to manage them
  194. Vasculitis
  195. Vesicoureteral reflux
  196. Cryotherapy
  197. How irritable bowel syndrome affects you
  198. Radiofrequency ablation
  199. What is meant by the term heart age?
  200. What's causing my infant's diarrhea?
  201. Whipple's disease
  202. Wilms' tumor
  203. Yellow fever
  204. Fecal transplant treatment of C. difficile at Mayo Clinic
  205. Mayo Clinic study reporting increased incidence of C. difficile infection
  206. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome