Abdominal pain

Overview

Everyone experiences abdominal pain from time to time. Other terms used to describe abdominal pain are stomachache, tummy ache, gut ache and bellyache. Abdominal pain can be mild or severe. It may be continuous or come and go. Abdominal pain can be short-lived (acute) or occur over weeks, months or years (chronic).

Call your doctor right away if you have abdominal pain so severe that you can't move without causing more pain, or you can't sit still or find a comfortable position.

Seek immediate medical help if pain is accompanied by other worrisome signs and symptoms, including:

  • Severe pain
  • Fever
  • Bloody stools
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Skin that appears yellow
  • Severe tenderness when you touch your abdomen
  • Swelling of the abdomen

Call 911 or emergency medical assistance

Seek help if your abdominal pain is severe and is associated with:

  • Trauma, such as an accident or injury
  • Pressure or pain in your chest

Seek immediate medical attention

Have someone drive you to urgent care or the emergency room if you have:

  • Severe pain
  • Fever
  • Bloody stools
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Skin that appears yellow
  • Severe tenderness when you touch your abdomen
  • Swelling of the abdomen

Causes


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.

Acute

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

Progressive

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)


Abdominal aortic aneurysm

Acute liver failure

Addison's disease

Alcoholic hepatitis

Alpha-gal syndrome

Anaphylaxis

Antibiotic-associated diarrhea

Aortic aneurysm

Appendicitis

Ascariasis

Barrett's esophagus

Behcet's disease

Bile reflux

Bladder stones

Blastocystis hominis

Botulism

C. difficile infection

Carcinoid tumors

Cardiogenic shock

Celiac disease

Chagas disease

Chlamydia trachomatis

Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)

Cholecystitis

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Churg-Strauss syndrome

Colon cancer

Colon polyps

Constipation in children

Crohn's disease

Cyclic vomiting syndrome

Dengue fever

Diabetic ketoacidosis

Diabetic neuropathy

Diarrhea

Diverticulitis

E. coli

Ectopic pregnancy

Egg allergy

Encopresis

Enlarged liver

Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)

Eosinophilic esophagitis

Epididymitis

Esophagitis

Fibromuscular dysplasia

Food allergy

Food poisoning

Gallbladder cancer

Gallstones

Gas and gas pains

Intestinal gas can be embarrassing and sometimes painful. But a few simple measures can often provide relief.

Giardia infection (giardiasis)

Gonorrhea

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome

Headaches in children

Heart attack

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection

Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)

Henoch-Schonlein purpura

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Hives and angioedema

Hypercalcemia

Hyperglycemia in diabetes

Indigestion

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Intestinal ischemia

Intestinal obstruction

Irritable bowel syndrome

Ischemic colitis

Kawasaki disease

Kidney infection

Lactose intolerance

Lead poisoning

Liver cancer

Liver disease

Liver hemangioma

Median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS)

Mental illness

Mesenteric lymphadenitis

Mesothelioma

Milk allergy

Miscarriage

Mittelschmerz

Neuroblastoma

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Norovirus infection

Ovarian cysts

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome

Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cysts

Pancreatitis

Pelvic congestion syndrome

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Peritonitis

Pheochromocytoma

Pinworm infection

Placental abruption

Plague

Porphyria

Postpartum preeclampsia

Preeclampsia

Primary biliary cholangitis

Primary sclerosing cholangitis

Proctitis

Pseudomembranous colitis

Rotavirus

Ruptured spleen

Salmonella infection

Scrotal masses

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Shellfish allergy

Shigella infection

Small vessel disease

Tapeworm infection

Testicular torsion

Toxic hepatitis

Traveler's diarrhea

Trichinosis

Triple X syndrome

Typhoid fever

Ulcerative colitis

Vasculitis

Vesicoureteral reflux

Whipple's disease

Wilms' tumor

Yellow fever

Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

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