Abdominal migraine is a type of migraine that affects the stomach. It remains unclear what causes abdominal migraine, but the symptoms may be treatable using medication.

Unlike other types of migraine, abdominal migraine does not cause headaches. Instead, the pain tends to occur in the stomach. Although abdominal migraine usually affects children, the condition can sometimes persist into adulthood.

This article covers what abdominal migraine is, the possible causes and triggers, and how to treat it.

a person holding their stomach because they are experiencing Abdominal migrainesShare on Pinterest
A person with abdominal migraine may experience aching or cramping in the stomach.

Abdominal migraine causes pain in the stomach.

This can feel like an ache or cramp, and it typically affects the area around the middle of the stomach or belly button.

Other symptoms may include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • pale skin
  • fatigue
  • sensitivity to light or sound
  • headaches
  • diarrhea

Episodes typically last for 2–72 hours. These symptoms should resolve between episodes.

It is currently unclear what causes abdominal migraine.

According to an article in the journal Pediatric Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, people may have a genetic predisposition to developing abdominal migraine. However, there is not yet enough research to confirm this theory.

Although the cause of abdominal migraine is not clear, there may be several triggers.

Examples of these triggers include:

  • stress
  • hunger
  • lack of sleep
  • motion sickness
  • flickering lights
  • dietary factors

According to a 2016 article in the journal Internal Medicine, there do not appear to be many evidence-based treatments for abdominal migraine. Some treatments aim to improve the symptoms a person is experiencing.

In general, a person should avoid the triggers as best as they can and try to get enough sleep.

Some treatment options may include:

  • Antiemetics: Some examples of these medications include metoclopramide and domperidone. These are anti-sickness medications that may help if a person is experiencing nausea or vomiting.
  • Hydration therapy: This helps replace water lost through vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen: There is conflicting research regarding the efficacy of these medications for this purpose. However, they may help if a person takes them soon after the onset of symptoms.
  • Triptans and ergotamines: These may help prevent the onset of abdominal migraine and treat the associated pain.
  • Beta-blockers: One example of a beta-blocker is propranolol. Beta-blockers may reduce a person’s blood pressure and help prevent abdominal migraine.

A doctor will diagnose abdominal migraine by assessing the physical symptoms. They might also ask specific questions about the person’s stomach pain, such as its location and severity.

They may also ask about other symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting.

They might also require further tests to rule out other conditions that share some of the same symptoms, such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome.

According to one article, abdominal migraine affects around 4% of children, typically aged 5–9 years old.

There are few reports of adults experiencing abdominal migraine, but it may be that many adult cases remain undiagnosed or have a tendency to turn into migraine.

Some symptoms of abdominal migraine in adults include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • localized abdominal pain

An abdominal migraine might be difficult to prevent, as the cause is still unclear. However, it may help to avoid any known triggers. These may vary from person to person.

A person may be able to identify their triggers by keeping a diary. This can help identify activities or feelings that might bring on an episode.

A person can also take medications to help prevent abdominal migraine episodes.

A person should see a doctor right away if the abdominal migraine occurs with more severe symptoms, such as:

  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • severe vomiting
  • chest pain
  • muscle weakness
  • fever
  • loss of vision

Abdominal migraine can continue into adulthood. However, this is rare.

Some doctors consider persistent abdominal migraine to be an indication of future migraine episodes.

According to one 2001 study consisting of 54 participants, the abdominal pain had resolved in 61% of them. However, around 70% developed migraine.

To date, there have not been many large or longitudinal studies regarding the prognosis of abdominal migraine.

Abdominal migraine causes moderate-to-severe stomach pain.

These episodes typically occur in children and stop during adolescence. Sometimes, however, abdominal migraine persists into adulthood.

Many treatments are available, such as over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers.

Although it is unclear what causes them, there are several possible triggers for an episode, such as a lack of sleep. Avoiding these triggers can help prevent episodes from occurring.

It is also possible to take some medications to help prevent abdominal migraine.