Common Causes of Abdominal Pain

Common Causes of Abdominal Pain

Everybody experiences stomach discomfort at some point in their lives. Oftentimes, the causes of abdominal pain are not life-threatening. Diagnosis and treatment are often uncomplicated. But sometimes the source of the pain can be a serious condition. It is essential to know which symptoms can be easily managed at home and which require medical treatment.

Common and uncommon causes of Abdominal pain

Abdominal pain has many possible causes. The most common causes are gas pains, indigestion or a pulled muscle which arent usually serious.

While uncommon conditions may need urgent medical attention.

Acute abdominal pain occurs and usually settles over a few hours to a few days. Chronic abdominal pain may be interrupted (episodic), that is it may come and go. This type of pain may be present for weeks to months, or even years. Some chronic conditions cause increasing pain, which regularly gets worse over time.

Types of Abdominal Pain


The many situations that cause acute abdominal pain are normally followed by other signs that emerge over hours to days. Problems can vary from minor conditions that will 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 (Fertilized egg implants and grows outside of the uterus, such as in a fallopian tube)
  10. Heart attack
  11. Injury
  12. Intestinal obstruction
  13. Intussusception (in children)
  14. Kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
  15. Kidney stones
  16. A liver abscess (a pus-filled pocket in the liver)
  17. Mesenteric ischemia (decreased blood flow to the intestines)
  18. Mesenteric lymphadenitis (swollen lymph nodes in the folds of the membrane that hold the abdominal organs in place)
  19. Mesenteric thrombosis (blood clot in a vein carrying blood away from your intestines)
  20. Pancreatitis (pancreas inflammation)
  21. Pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue around the heart)
  22. Peritonitis (infection of the abdominal lining)
  23. Pleurisy (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the lungs)
  24. Pneumonia
  25. Pulmonary infarction (loss of blood flow to the lungs)
  26. Ruptured spleen
  27. Salpingitis (inflammation of the fallopian tubes)
  28. Shingles
  29. Spleen infection
  30. A splenic abscess (a pus-filled pocket in the spleen)
  31. Torn colon
  32. Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  33. Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)

Chronic (intermittent, or episodic)

The particular case of chronic abdominal pain is usually hard to determine. Signs may vary from moderate to critical, It won’t worsen over time. It will come and go. Conditions that 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


Abdominal pain that steadily worsens over time, usually followed by the growth of other symptoms, is regularly serious. Causes of progressive abdominal pain include:

  1. Cancer
  2. Crohn’s disease (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. A tube-ovarian abscess
  13. Uremia (buildup of waste products in your blood)

Conditions that cause chronic abdominal pain include:

  • Angina (reduced blood flow to the heart)
  • Celiac disease.
  • Endometriosis.
  • Functional dyspepsia.
  • Gallstones.
  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Hiatal hernia.

Frequent Causes of Abdominal Pain

Pain can show up in many ways, you may experience cramps, a dull stomachache or sharp pain. The underlying problem may result in upper abdominal pain, lower left abdominal pain or right abdominal pain, or the discomfort may travel. There are many causes of abdominal pain, including:

  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Food allergies
  • Stomach virus
  • Menstrual discomfort
  • Appendicitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS
  • Food poisoning
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD
  • Excessive gas
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Ulcer
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Hernia
  • Gallstones or kidney stones
  • Endometriosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Urinary tract infection

When Abdominal Pain is a Sign of a Serious Medical Condition

If you experience frequent or severe abdominal pain along with any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

  • Fever
  • Vomiting for more than two days
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation, especially if it is accompanied by vomiting
  • Painful or frequent urination
  • Abdomen is painful or tender to the touch
  • Pain due to trauma to the abdomen
  • Pain lasting more than several hours

Seek emergency medical care if you are:

  • Vomiting blood
  • Passing bloody or black tarry stools
  • Have a hard time breathing
  • Experiencing pain during pregnancy

Since there are a plethora of reasons for abdominal pain, a comprehensive exam is needed to determine the root cause. Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and ask a series of questions that may include the following:

  • Describe the type of pain you are feeling? Is it localized pain or do you feel it throughout your abdomen?
  • Are you experiencing upper abdominal pain? Is it right abdominal pain or lower left abdominal pain?
  • Are you experiencing stabbing, or severe pain, is it a dull ache?
  • When are you feeling this pain? Is it constant? Does it occurearly in the day or at night? If the pain is sporadic, how long does it last when it comes? Do you feel it after eating specific foods or after indulging in alcohol? Do you feel the pain during menstruation?
  • How long have you been suffering from this pain?
  • Is there a chance of pregnancy?
  • Have you experienced a recent injury?

After a thorough evaluation, your doctor may order a series of tests to look further into the cause of your abdominal pain. An x-ray, CT scan, endoscopy, ultrasound or some type or enema may be performed. You may also need to supply a stool, blood or urine sample.