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AM is most common in children starting at about age 7, but younger and older children may also get AM. Usually, abdominal migraines stop by the time children become teenagers. However, children who have had AM are more likely to have migraine headaches when they are adults. Sometimes adults also have abdominal migraines.
Abdominal migraine causes paroxysmal attacks - attacks that happen suddenly, and happen again and again. The attacks can last from 1–72 hours, but they usually last less than 6 hours. They happen about one-third more often in females than in males.
Abdominal migraines can cause other symptoms along with bad pain in the abdomen. People with AM usually have at least two of these other symptoms: nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite (not wanting to eat), headache, photophobia (being bothered by lights), and pallor (pale skin).
AM is more common in children of women who have had migraine headaches. This suggests that AM may have a genetic cause (a cause that is passed down from parents to their children).
Signs and symptoms [change]
Abdominal migraines can cause many different symptoms. A person having an AM may have all of these symptoms, or only a few.
- Pain in the abdomen which lasts from 1–72 hours
- Loss of appetite (not wanting to eat)
- Nausea (feeling like throwing up)
- Vomiting (throwing up)
- Listlessness (not having any energy)
- Drowsiness (feeling very sleepy)
- Pallor (the skin becomes pale (lighter in color than usual)
- Flushing or skin blushing (the skin of the face, neck, or upper chest suddenly becomes redder. This happens when the body makes more of the hormone adrenaline, which causes the heart to beat faster and pump more blood through the body's blood vessels. The blood vessels also dilate (become larger))
- Periorbital dark circles (dark circles under both eyes)
To diagnose abdominal migraine, first a doctor takes a patient's clinical history (where the doctor gathers information about all of the medical problems and medical treatments the patient has ever had). The doctor also takes a family history (gathering information about family members' health), because many medical problems may be inheritable medical conditions. This means that the problems may be passed down from parents to children, possibly because of problems in the family's genes. Most people with abdominal migraines have family members (especially mothers) who have also had migraines.
Differential diagnoses [change]
Before making a final diagnosis of abdominal migraine, a doctor must rule out differential diagnoses. These are other medical problems which could cause the same symptoms as AM. The doctor must make sure that the patient doesn't actually have one of these other problems instead of AM:
- Giardia lamblia - a parasite which can infect a person's gastrointestinal system
- Lead poisoning
- A tumor
- A peptic ulcer
- Mesenteric adentis - (inflammation, or swelling, of the lymph nodes below and to the right of the navel (belly button)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Superior mesenteric artery (SMA) syndrome
- Splenoptosis or 'Wandering spleen'
- Recurrent pancreatitis - inflammation of the pancreas that keeps happening
- M. William Schwartz : The 5 Minute Pediatric Consult (The 5-Minute Consult Series) :(Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; Sixth edition, 2012) ISBN 145111656X
- Rome III Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
- International Headache Society Classification ICHD-II
- "Differential diagnosis". Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2012. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/differential%20diagnosis. Retrieved November 8, 2012.