Migraine is so much more than just a headache and for some, especially children, it’s the stomach problems that prove most troublesome…
Mostly common in children, abdominal migraine involves repeated bouts of stomach pains alongside various other migraine symptoms. Your child might complain of severe tummy pains without any headache symptoms, which can make this misunderstood and under-diagnosed condition even harder to properly identify.
Abdominal migraines in children are surprisingly common among those with regular abdominal pain, especially if there is a family history of migraine – in fact, it’s one of the most common causes of functional tummy pain in children. Many of those affected will have headaches at other times too or go on to get more obvious symptoms of migraine later.
Long-term stomach pains in children account for as many as two to four per cent of all visits to GPs and 50 per cent of appointments with paediatric gastroenterologists.
Abdominal migraines in children and teenagers can continue into later life. Abdominal migraine in adults may be less common, but their impact on those affected can be just as great.
Chronic and recurrent abdominal pain is a very distressing symptom that affects quality of life as well as school or work performance.
‘One study found that up to five per cent of all children with abdominal migraine have had unnecessary operations, so an early diagnosis is important.’
Episodes of recurring abdominal pain, especially in children, that last more than an hour and are accompanied by features typical of migraine, such as light sensitivity, nausea, sensitivity to movement, may be abdominal migraine. Since abdominal migraine without headache is not uncommon, doctors may miss the migraine link.
Between attacks, those affected have no related, ongoing symptoms.
Also, bouts of abdominal pain may be accompanied by vomiting.
Abdominal migraine can lead to frequent school or work absences, inappropriate and sometimes intrusive investigations and even unnecessary surgery. One study found that up to five per cent of all children with abdominal migraine have had unnecessary operations, so an early diagnosis is important.
Read more, and learn about treatment options, with our abdominal migraine factsheet.