Abdominal Pain & Irritable Bowel Syndrome Common in
HARTFORD--Symptoms of abdominal discomfort and pain have
been suggested by limited studies to be frequent in adolescents who
seek medical care. The actual prevalence of gastrointestinal
symptoms in adolescents in the community has not been studied.
A study published in The Journal of Pediatrics
(1996;129:220-6) by Jeffrey S Hyams, M.D. and associates at the
University of Connecticut evaluated 507 middle school (mean age 12.6
years) and high school (mean age 15.6 years) students and found that
abdominal pain was noted by 75% of all students. Moreover, the pains
were weekly in approximately 15% of the students. Eight percent of
the students studied had seen a doctor for pains in the abdomen in
the previous year.
The study also found that, in those students who reported histories
of abdominal pains, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome were common
(8% of middle school and 17% of high schoolers). Symptoms of
irritable bowel syndrome included abdominal pain with looser and more
frequent bowel movements, hard and loose stools, straining, urgency,
and bloating. Features of anxiety and depression were more common in
students with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome than in those
without these symptoms.
The study also noted a strong association with headaches and
abdominal pains in the adolescents.
Recurrent abdominal pains in adolescents appears common. Parents and
healthcare providers should appreciate this. Patients with symptoms
of irritable bowel syndrome can benefit from stress management,
dietary changes, and reassurance. Those with persisting or unusual
symptoms, however, may require further medical evaluation.
For more information, please see the Irritable Bowel Syndrome article.
Last Editorial Review: 4/5/2002