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Abdominal Migraine: Symptoms and Treatment

Abdominal Migraine: Symptoms and Treatment

As the name rightly suggests, abdominal migraine causes pain in the belly, instead of the head. Here is a brief overview of the condition that is commonly found in kids in the age group of five to nine.
Sonia Nair
Last Updated: Dec 21, 2017
Abdominal migraine is a type of migraine without the characteristic symptom - headache. This condition is mostly found in kids, especially females. Rarely, adults may develop abdominal migraine, which is characterized by abdominal pain. Such pain can be linked to a wide range of diseases. So, it is very difficult to diagnose this condition. The International Headache Society (IHS) has generated some guidelines, according to which, the condition is diagnosed.
Usually, abdominal migraine affects those children, who have a family history of migraine. It has also been noted that most of the children suffering from this type of migraine develop migraine headaches on reaching puberty. Studies have also shown that, girls are more prone to abdominal migraine than boys. In fact, the most important factor in diagnosing this type of migraine is the family history of the child. The next step is to eliminate other causes of abdominal pain. Doctors cannot rely only on the symptoms to diagnose the underlying condition.
Symptoms
Unlike the typical migraine, abdominal migraine is characterized by abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. In most cases, the pain is located in the midline of the abdomen, especially around the umbilicus. The pain may last for one to two hours, and may recur several times during a timespan of one to three days. Other symptoms include sensitivity to light and sound, and dizziness. Some kids may experience irritability, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and headaches. The affected kid may look pale and flushed. Dark shadows may also appear around the eyes. According to the International Headache Society (IHS), such a condition can be categorized as abdominal migraine, if it satisfies the following conditions.
  • The child should have gone through a minimum of five attacks, which fulfill the conditions given in criteria B to D.
  • Criteria B - One whole episode should last for one to three days with recurring attacks of abdominal pain.
  • Criteria C - Abdominal pain should have the following features: It should be located along the midline, adjacent to the navel or poorly localized. The pain can be dull or sore in nature, and moderate to severe in intensity.
  • Criteria D - The pain should be accompanied with at least two of the following symptoms - anorexia, nausea, vomiting, and pallor.
  • As per criteria E, the symptoms should not be attributed to any other disorder. It is also noted that the results of physical examination and medical history of the child should be taken into consideration, to rule out the possibility of gastrointestinal or renal disease. Otherwise, appropriate investigations should be conducted to rule out such possibilities.
Treatment
Abdominal migraine was recognized as a migraine variant during the late 1990s. Besides that, this condition is less common as compared to the other forms. Hence, there is no definite pattern of treatment for this disorder. At present, this condition is treated on the same lines as that of migraines. Medication for migraines are administered for kids affected with abdominal migraine, but only after considering the age group of the patient. Treatment includes pain killers, anti-nausea drugs, and sedatives. The most important factor, which helps to relieve the symptoms, is rest. The child must be allowed to rest and sleep in a quiet, dark room. It has been observed that, usually, the kids outgrow this condition, within two to three years.
As in case of migraines, abdominal migraine in children can also be prevented by avoiding some food items that can trigger the symptoms. Though such foods are not easily identified; chocolates, processed meat, and Chinese food, are considered triggers for this condition. Stress is also considered as a causal agent for abdominal migraine. In case of stress, psychological counseling could be beneficial. It has also been suggested that air swallowed in large amounts may trigger this condition.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.