Abdominal Migraine in Children

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder Anand, MD
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Abdominal migraine in children facts

  • Abdominal migraine is believed to be a variant of migraine that is common in children but rare in adults.
  • Abdominal migraine is characterized by pain in the center of the abdomen that may be severe.
  • Symptoms can last for one hour or up to a several days.
  • Nausea and vomiting may be associated with the pain.
  • Sleep typically brings relief from abdominal migraine. Medications used to treat classic migraine can also be effective, although there is no single treatment that is known to be effective in all patients.
  • Most children with abdominal migraine have a family history of migraine, and most go on to develop migraine as adults.
  • The exact cause of abdominal migraine is poorly understood. It may be related to both neurologic and endocrinologic (hormone) factors.
  • The diagnosis of abdominal migraine can be difficult, and depends upon ruling out other potential causes for the abdominal pain and symptoms. There is no one diagnostic test that confirms the diagnosis.

What is abdominal migraine?

Like adults, children can develop migraines. This can be the same type of condition seen in adults, which is typically occurs with a headache, and is sometimes preceded by an aura. Nausea, vomiting, and photophobia (decreased tolerance to light) can occur. Children also develop some unusual and atypical variations of migraine, not associated with headaches in particular, that are not usually observed in adults. Abdominal migraine is one of these variants.

Abdominal migraine is a condition thought to be related to migraine that is characterized by pain in the abdomen. It is often precipitated by the usual triggers of classic migraine. The pain can be severe, and nausea and vomiting can occur.

Abdominal migraine is rare in adults, but it has been estimated that up to 2% of all children may develop abdominal migraines. Children who have the condition usually go on to develop migraine headaches as adults. Girls are affected more frequently than boys. Abdominal migraine typically occurs for the first time between the ages of 2 and 10.

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