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