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Your Child’s Stomach Hurts — Is it a Migraine?

Abdominal migraine is a common diagnosis in Europe and the U.K., but it’s not made in the U.S. very often and many health care providers don’t know that such a syndrome exists. A recent study in the journal Headache set out to evaluate whether kids who suffer from severe and unexplained abdominal pain were perhaps instead suffering from abdominal migraines. The authors of the study investigated why, despite recognition by both stomach and headache medical groups, abdominal migraine remains under-recognized and under-diagnosed as a cause of recurring abdominal pain in children living in the U.S.

Ongoing and recurring abdominal pain occurs in 9-15% of all children and adolescents. After excluding other causes of pain such as that caused by anatomical problems, infection, inflammation or other causes, “functional abdominal pain” is the most common diagnosis of chronic, naturally occurring, abdominal pain in childhood. Functional abdominal pain is typically categorized into one, or a combination disorders including abdominal migraine which has been and which consists of painful attacks of mid-section of the stomach area, moderate to severe abdominal pain lasting 1-72 hours along with nausea, vomiting and other motor symptoms.

In the study, the authors conducted a review of medical charts for children that were referred to a pediatric gastroenterology practice and who were suffering from ongoing abdominal pain. 458 patients met the standards for inclusion in the study and a total of 1824 total patient office visits were reviewed. 84.6% of the children did not meet the standards for the diagnosis of abdominal migraine but 4.4% did and another 11% had symptoms that were almost consistent with the diagnosis. Notably, however, none of the children were ever given the diagnosis of abdominal migraine after their visit.

The authors concluded that among children with chronic, naturally occurring, recurrent abdominal pain, abdominal migraine represents about 4-15% of the incidence. Given the variety of treatment options available for pediatric migraine, raising awareness about this syndrome will hopefully improve the appropriate diagnosis of children who exhibit these symptoms. Until an evaluation is done and a diagnosis is made, it may be advisable for parents to practice common migraine prevention techniques including the limiting certain foods or activities that might be a precipitating factor for the development of migraine.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Reuters-Some kids’ belly pain could be a migraine | Abdominal Migraine: An Under-Diagnosed Cause of Recurrent Abdominal Pain in Children. Headache. 2011 Mar 11a

Comments

  • Sherry Brown Shafer
    8 years ago

    In my photo there are 3 out 4 generations of migraine.My Mom is absent from the pic.I have had abdominal migraine since the age of 10,48 years.I had never heard of it until the last 3 years.Many times when my migraine is going away it goes into my abdomen and I have to deal with the symptoms there.The pain feels like someone is twisting a knife, I also have nausea.

  • Dawn M Hadland
    8 years ago

    I had them back in the early ’70s when there were no CTs or theories about abd migraines. I was in the hospital for a week for testing and came out with a diagnosis of “nerves”. My Headache Doc definitely thinks that they were Abd Migs.

  • Becky Davenport
    8 years ago

    my son, who is now 17, had unexplained bouts of nausea and vomiting from age 4 or 5. We knew he couldn’t get sick that often. As a migraineur, I wondered. He had this almost once per week until about age 13 and then it got less frequent. His pediatrician said something about it a age 7 but triptans aren’t prescribed for children. He had scopes and tests and nothing. One doct thought he was sneaking food at night and overeating, just because he was a little chubby. I disagreed. After reading the literature, I am sure that he does suffer from them and hopefully he doesn’t get the “real” ones with headache. He gets headache once in a while.

  • Jaylene Ancheta
    8 years ago

    I believe a couple of my kids experienced Abdominal Migraines when they were little kids. They were not diagnosed with it but, I do believe that’s what they had. I suffer from Chronic Migraines myself and know that I experienced Abdominal ones also, even though back then, they didn’t even know what Migraines were. So far, my kids have not acquired Chronic Migraines as I have but, they have gotten Migraines during their teens, as I did. I did not get Migraines again until I was almost 30 and it didn’t become Chronic until I was about 35. So, it could still happen. I hope it doesn’t but, time will tell. I am glad that two of my kids have never had a migraine.

  • Robin Tatz Forney
    8 years ago

    My daughter was diagnosed with Abdominal Migraines. I’m wondering if kids outgrow it or do they become “regular” migraines as the get older?

  • Sherry Brown Shafer
    8 years ago

    Robin ,I’m 58 and I still have them.Just when I think I have my headache,whipped ,it goes into my abdomen.

  • Robin Tatz Forney
    8 years ago

    Thank you Becky. There is a history of migraines on my side of the family, including myself. My oldest daughter gets them too. I just hope the headaches don’t disrupt my daughters’ lives and with the improvement in care things will get better.

  • Becky Davenport
    8 years ago

    I have heard that they will sometimes convert to “classic migraines” but not always. I am crossing my fingers for my son. I suffer from chronic migraines. See above re son.

  • Harriet Williams Berg
    8 years ago

    I believe I experienced this when I was a child….

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