Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

What Is Abdominal Migraine?

Abdominal Migraine is a pathological condition which has nothing to do with the migraines that one usually speaks about which is characterized by severe headaches. In fact, in Abdominal Migraine there are no headaches involved at all. Instead, it is the abdominal area which is affected and the individual suffers from severe abdominal or stomach pain. Abdominal Migraine is mostly seen in children but in some cases they have occurred in adults as well.

The pain caused by Abdominal Migraine is severe and incapacitating and tend to have the same triggers as that of migraine headaches. Apart from severe abdominal pain, it tends to also cause nausea, vomiting, and at times even cramping sensation.

Children with a family history of migraines are more likely to get Abdominal Migraine than the normal population and girls are more prone to Abdominal Migraine than boys. It is also seen that migraine headaches develop later in life in those children who have a history of Abdominal Migraines.

What Is Abdominal Migraine?

What Are The Causes Of Abdominal Migraine?

What exactly causes Abdominal Migraine is not known as of yet and research is still ongoing with regard to that. One theory that is believed to cause Abdominal Migraine is that an alteration in the levels of stress hormones which are histamine and serotonin may result in the development of Abdominal Migraine.

If a child is terribly upset about something or is excessively worried then there may be alteration in these two enzymes causing the child to develop Abdominal Migraines. There are various triggers that can start an Abdominal Migraine. These triggers can be eating chocolates, Chinese food which contains monosodium glutamate, or processed meats with nitrites in them. Swallowing air may also trigger Abdominal Migraines.

What Are The Symptoms Of Abdominal Migraine?

The primary symptom of an Abdominal Migraine is severe and incapacitating pain in the center of the stomach right around the belly button. Additionally, the child may also have the following:

  • Episodes of a sensation of vomiting
  • Feeling flushed
  • Lethargic
  • Inability to eat or having very poor appetite
  • Having dark circles under the eyes

An attack of Abdominal Migraine is quite sudden and severe. It usually happens without any aura which is seen in migraine headaches. The pain is self limiting and may last for minutes to hour to as long as 2 to 3 days.

How Is Abdominal Migraine Diagnosed?

Abdominal Migraine is a difficult condition to diagnose as it is very difficult for the child to differentiate from an abdominal pain and stomach pain which is quite common. However, Abdominal Migraines may be suspected when the physician asks the child to point to the area where it hurts the most. This will prompt the physician to ask the parents about any family history of migraines as Abdominal Migraine tend to run in families.

If there is a family history of migraines in the family, then the physician may run specialized tests to rule out other potential causes for the abdominal or stomach pain. Once all these conditions are ruled out and based on the family history, the diagnosis is confirmed of Abdominal Migraines.

How Is Abdominal Migraine Treated?

Since Abdominal Migraine is a self limiting condition, there is no specific treatment as such. The treatment is basically rest and directed at the symptoms which is pain. Medications are usually not given unless the symptoms of abdominal migraine are extremely severe and the child is significantly debilitated. Medications may also be prescribed if the frequency of the attacks is quite high.

Medications like Maxalt, Imitrex, or triptans are not approved to be given to children although if the child is above 14 years of age, small doses of these medications may be prescribed.

Other than this there is no specific treatment for Abdominal Migraines. The condition lasts for minute to hours and in some cases it may last for 2 to 3 days but most of the times children tend to outgrow Abdominal Migraines.

What is The Prognosis For Abdominal Migraine?

The prognosis for abdominal migraine is good; most children eventually stop getting the abdominal pain attacks. However, most children, i.e. about 70% in one study of 54 children, who have abdominal migraine, develop migraines in their adulthood.

Some Facts Of Abdominal Migraine In Children:

  • Abdominal migraine is known to be a variant of migraine that is common in children, however, rare in adults.
  • Abdominal migraine is characterized by pain in the abdominal center that may be severe.
  • Nausea and vomiting may be associated with the abdominal pain.
  • Symptoms of abdominal migraine can last for one hour or even several days.
  • Typically sleep brings relief from this abdominal migraine. Medications that are used to treat classic migraine, can also be effective; although there is no single treatment known to be effective in all patients.
  • Most children suffering from abdominal migraine have a family history of migraine, and most of them develop migraine as adults.
  • The diagnosis of abdominal migraine can be tough, and it depends upon ruling out other potential causes of abdominal pain and other symptoms. There is no one particular diagnostic test that can confirm the diagnosis of migraine headache.
Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: March 13, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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