Migraine headaches usually involve head pain, but there’s another category of migraine that affects children known as abdominal migraine syndrome. Abdominal migraines in children are not as uncommon as most people believe. According to an article published in Family Practice News, abdominal migraines in children may account for a full 15% of unexplained, abdominal pain that recurs on a regular basis.
What is Abdominal Migraine Syndrome?
This is a frequently under diagnosed condition where a child experiences recurrent abdominal pain that lasts for anywhere from an hour to three days at a time. The child usually describes the pain as a dull soreness that’s difficult to pinpoint – although it’s most common in the mid-abdominal region. A child with abdominal migraine syndrome may vomit and be unable to eat. He or she may appear pale and experience episodes of flushing – although this isn’t always seen. Some kids experience sensory symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and sensitivity to light – similar to that seen with a migraine headache.
Why is It Called Abdominal Migraine Syndrome?
It’s called an abdominal migraine because many children who have this condition go on to develop typical migraine headaches. In fact, children who are diagnosed with this condition are four times more likely to develop migraine headaches later on in life. Many children with this syndrome have a parent who also experienced migraine headaches. The cause? Abdominal migraines are believed to arise from abnormal brain waves that signal the intestines contract in a disorderly manner.
What Should You Know About Abdominal Migraines in Children?
It’s important to remember that the diagnosis of abdominal migraine is made only after other causes of abdominal pain are ruled out. Conditions such as appendicitis, peptic ulcer disease, obstruction of the intestines, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and viral and bacterial infections of the intestines can be difficult to distinguish from abdominal migraines. Some of these conditions can be life threatening if not treated – so always have a child evaluated by a doctor if he or she has abdominal pain.
How is Abdominal Migraine Syndrome Treated?
Treatment depends on the age of the patient, but usually consists of anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the pain and medications to relieve nausea. Most of the emphasis is on prevention of abdominal migraines which means avoiding stress and determining foods that seem to trigger the symptoms and avoiding them.
Abdominal Migraine Syndrome: The Bottom Line?
Any child who has abdominal pain needs evaluation. Don’t assume it’s an abdominal migraine until other causes have been ruled out. Most kids outgrow abdominal migraines, but, unfortunately, go on to develop migraine headaches later on.
Family Practice News. February 1, 2010. page 39.