When most of us think of migraines, we imagine horrible and sometimes debilitating headaches.
A typical migraine episode features headache (usually a throbbing sensation on one side of the head), sensitivity to bright lights, nausea, and vomiting. However, what if migraine pain was felt in the abdominal area?
Abdominal migraine is a condition that creates much confusion between patients and their doctors, and some people might even think it’s a made-up condition, but it’s very real.
Find out what you need to know about abdominal migraines and how to diagnose them.
About Abdominal Migraines
Abdominal migraines are a common cause of abdominal pain in children, but it is not so common in adults. Having abdominal migraines as a child can predict regular migraines (those consisting of headache pain) in adults, but in some cases, abdominal migraines also occur in adulthood.
Similar to regular migraines, adult abdominal migraines are associated with sensory disturbances such as higher sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, vomiting, pallor, and unexplained weight loss.
Sometimes, patients may have a headache as an accompanying feature, as well, but doctors and patients may be easily confused because it is not a common condition.
Instead of a headache, the person suffering from an abdominal migraine will feel episodic abdominal pain for more than one hour, accompanied by the symptoms described above.
Patients may have other episodic pain syndromes, as well, for example, migraine limb pain and cyclical vomiting, which makes diagnosis even more difficult. Between one episode and the other, the individual feels well, and they do not display any concerning physical findings that would stand out to doctors.
Common Mistakes in Diagnosing Adult Abdominal Migraines
Abdominal migraines are uncommon in adults, which is why it is not expected as a likely diagnosis. Furthermore, these patients may have associated mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, mood changes, social anxiety, and others.
The occurrence of these mental health conditions may lead to the common error of underdiagnosing adult abdominal migraines due to the mistaken belief that it is a psychosomatic problem (a bodily expression of a mental health condition).
Unlike other causes of abdominal pain, patients with abdominal migraines do not display any symptoms between episodes. They do not have any physical signs of infection or any other health problem, which makes them more likely to be disbelieved or dismissed by several medical professionals before reaching a diagnosis.
The Best Way to Diagnose Abdominal Migraines
Abdominal migraines are a diagnosis of exclusion, which means it is essential to think about other health conditions and rule them out before starting to think about this diagnosis.
A physical examination is a good place to start, and it is crucial to perform urine analysis in adults because urinary tract infections and diabetic ketoacidosis may have similar symptoms.
Besides having a clear picture of the signs and symptoms, it is essential to explore both the family and personal history of the patient. A previous diagnosis of abdominal migraines, as well as family or personal history of any migraine, can lead to the diagnosis because there’s apparently a genetic role.
70 percent of people with abdominal migraines will also have other cyclic episodes, such as cyclical vomiting, migraine limb pain, torticollis, benign vertigo, and Raynaud’s phenomenon that presents along with the typical abdominal pain.
The majority of cases improve with rest and pain relievers and avoiding known triggers such as stress and sleep loss. Thus, if you want to get better, it is essential to get a clear view of your symptoms from all angles, so you can receive the correct diagnosis and treatment plan.