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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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What Are Abdominal Migraines in Children and Adults?

How Are Abdominal Migraines Diagnosed? continued...

Family history of migraine and abdominal migraines is a key factor in determining the possibility of abdominal migraines. So, the doctor will look at the patient's family medical history to assist in making an accurate diagnosis.

The first step is to eliminate other causes of stomach pain. Then the doctor may assess specific criteria developed by migraine experts. To determine the likelihood of an abdominal migraine, the doctor may check for some of the following symptoms:

  • Moderate to severe midline pain lasting from one to 72 hours
  • Symptoms of nausea and vomiting
  • Anorexia (a decrease in appetite; inability to eat)
  • Yawning, listlessness, drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Pallor (paleness/abnormally pale skin color)
  • Dark shadows under the eyes
  • Flushing

How Are Abdominal Migraines Treated?

A specific treatment for abdominal migraines has not yet been established. Because little is known about treating abdominal migraines, doctors may treat them like other migraines.

For some patients, certain serotonin blockers and tricyclic antidepressants may be useful for treating abdominal migraines. Doctors have had some success treating older children with nasal sumatriptan, which is a drug in the triptan class. However, the triptans used for migraine headaches have not been approved for use in children.

Triptans may also help adults with abdominal migraines. In addition, valproic acid (Depakote, for example), which is used to treat migraine headaches, has been used with some success in treating abdominal migraines.

Can Abdominal Migraines Be Prevented?

With appropriate education, children and adults with abdominal migraine may be able to figure out their personal triggers. For example, sometimes food such as chocolate or Chinese food that contains monosodium glutamate (MSG) might increase the chance of abdominal migraines. Avoiding these foods may be useful for some. Many people, though, have no food triggers for abdominal migraines.

Self-managing stress, along with healthy lifestyle habits, may play a role in reducing the risk of abdominal migraines. Children and adults who get abdominal migraines may want to keep a diary of the times that abdominal symptoms occur. They should also consult with their doctors about the best course of action for treatment and prevention.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Richard Senelick, MD on June 01, 2015
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