Abdominal migraine is classified as a migraine variant. This means that a person experiences a migraine, however the migraine appears in a form other than head pain. Abdominal migraines are more likely to occur in children rather than adults. Dr. Michelle Brenner and Dr. Donald Lewis, in a 2007 research article in the journal "Headache & Pain," report that abdominal migraines are mainly seen in school-aged children. According to the doctors, the diagnosis typically occurs when a child is between 3 and 10 years old. However, it is possible for adults to experience abdominal migraines.
When experiencing an abdominal migraine, a patient will have abdominal pain that lasts between one and 72 hours. The International Headache Society (IHS) states that the pain will be moderate or severe in nature. The pain has to be severe enough to interfere with a person's normal activities. The affected area is has a dull pain to it. In other words, it does not feel like it is stabbing, shooting or throbbing. The IHS says it as a "just sore" quality to it. The pain will be poorly located, around the navel (belly button), or the midline (middle) of the abdomen.
Nausea or Vomiting
Both nausea and vomiting are possible during an abdominal migraine attack. If someone experiences recurring attacks of prolonged vomiting, a doctor may need to reevaluate the diagnosis. A similar migraine variant, cyclic vomiting syndrome, has symptoms that are similar to abdominal migraine.
During an abdominal migraine attack a person will look pale. In addition to pallor, a person may have dark circles around the eyes during the migraine attack.
Anorexia is the refusal eat. The pain, along with any nausea or vomiting, will cause a patient to have little or no appetite. Unlike anorexia nervosa, this symptom is not continual and appetite will return as the migraine subsides.
Fatigue is not listed as one of the ICHD criteria for an abdominal migraine. However, according to Dr. Rima Dafer on eMedicine, people with abdominal migraine may experience fatigue and drowsiness. The fatigue may begin before the abdominal pain occurs. As with other symptoms associated with abdominal migraine, fatigue will diminish once the episode is complete.
- eMedicine: Migraine Variants
- "Headache & Pain;" Whither Goest the Migraine Variants?; Michelle Brenner, MD and Donald Lewis, MD; September, 2007
- "Pediatric Annals;" The Migraine Variants; Donald Lewis, MD and Eric Pearlman, MD; June, 2005