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Abdominal Migraine in Children

Abdominal Migraine in Children

Abdominal migraines are also known as tummy migraines or non-headache migraines. As the name suggests, this condition can cause mild to severe stomach pain, and is more commonly observed in children. The causes, symptoms, as well as the treatment of this condition are discussed in this article.
Chandramita Bora
Last Updated: Dec 21, 2017
An abdominal migraine can be termed as a migraine of a different nature, which is characterized by mild to severe recurrent abdominal pain, usually not accompanied by a headache. Though an abdominal migraine is triggered by the same group of factors that trigger a typical migraine headache, this condition usually causes gastrointestinal problems, like abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, but does not cause headaches.
This condition is usually regarded as a variant of migraine. It mainly affects children in the age group of 5 to 9 years, with girls being more susceptible than boys. Adults are rarely affected by this disease. Abdominal or tummy migraines are commonly observed in children who have a family history of migraines. Such children are observed to have a greater likelihood of developing migraines later in their lives.
Possible Causes
A change in the levels of the chemicals histamine and serotonin are thought to trigger an episode of abdominal migraine. These chemicals are also the triggering factors for typical migraine headaches. What exactly brings about a change in the levels of these two chemicals is not known. But factors like stress, anxiety, extreme temperature, continuous exposure to bright light for a long time, and certain foods like chocolates, caffeine, cheese, processed meat, monosodium glutamate, and Chinese food can affect the levels of these two chemicals in some individuals.
Symptoms of Abdominal Migraine
Recurrent episodes of abdominal pain, mostly around the navel or the upper abdomen can be regarded as the typical symptom of this condition. The pain can last for about 1 to 72 hours, and is often accompanied by other gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting, and anorexia or loss of appetite. Children can develop black shadows under their eyes. Other symptoms of this condition are, pallor, yawning and drowsiness, photosensitivity, and flushing.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are no distinctive tests for diagnosing this condition. An evaluation of the symptoms, as well as the family and medical history of the patient can help detect the condition. Recurrent abdominal pain accompanied by other gastrointestinal problems are commonly observed in abdominal migraine. The presence of these symptoms can help diagnose this condition. In addition to these, electroencephalography (EEG) or brain wave scans can help make a proper diagnosis.
The standard medical practice is to treat abdominal migraine the same way as the other types of migraines. Generally, propranolol, a beta blocker is prescribed to treat or prevent migraines in children. Another commonly used medication is cyproheptadine, which is an antihistamine that affects the level of serotonin. Though triptans are widely used for treating migraines, these drugs have not been tested to find out their safety and efficacy in treating this condition in children. Medications like paracetamol and ibuprofen may be used for relieving abdominal pain. But a certified physician should always be consulted before giving your child any kind of medications.
For migraine, the best treatment is prevention. So, educate your child about abdominal migraines, and help him or her figure out the specific triggers. Teach your child to monitor the symptoms closely, so that the condition can be treated properly. It is important to find out the personal triggers, as these can vary considerably from one person to another. For some individuals, certain foods like chocolates or Chinese food can trigger an episode of tummy migraines, while for others, the stimulants can be stress or anxiety.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.