Symptoms of Abdominal Migraine

by James on 12 September 2008

The symptoms of abdominal migraine regularly confuse doctors.  It’s surprisingly common in children, so it’s equally surprising that so many people have never even heard of it!

The most recognizable symptom of abdominal migraine is the recurring abdominal pain.  In between attacks, everything will be fine.  But then the stomach pain returns, often lasting a whole 24 hours (anywhere from 1-72 hours).

As with many types of migraine, there is often no headache.  The most common symptoms are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • No appetite (anorexia)
  • nausea/vomiting
  • pallor (going pale)
Abdominal migraine symptoms

Aside from these, there may be headache, sensitivity to light, irritability, diarrhea, and dark shadows under the eyes.  The symptoms of abdominal migraine are episodic – that is, they come in "attacks" with healthy periods in between, just like other types of migraine.

Sometimes these symptoms appear in adults, but normally they occur in children between the ages of 5 and 9.  It can be very tricky to diagnose, and it’s important to rule out other possible issues (such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and peptic ulcer).  Sometimes children are diagnosed with cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) – recent studies are suggesting that CVS may actually be abdominal migraine.

It’s also important to deal with abdominal migraine because it can lead to other kinds of migraine in adulthood.  It’s a big help to get a proper diagnosis and proper treatment early on.

Side note:  Why are these abdominal symptoms included in the category of migraine?  There are two main reasons.  First, there are symptoms similar to many types of migraine – it comes in episodes, nausea is often present, sensitivity to light, etc.  Second, researchers discovered that people with abdominal migraine symptoms often had other family members with more familiar types of migraine.

Remember, migraine is not just another name for a headache!

More on abdominal migraine here.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Devan September 22, 2009 at 1:52 pm

every four months i wake up in the middle of the night feeling dizzy and within the hour i am throwing up every 20 mins for six hrs.
it takes me around 5 days to recover because of the dizzyness and headaches. what is the cure for abdiminal migranes.

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Sheryl October 5, 2009 at 3:41 pm

there is no cure for abdominal migranes. Our daughter has been extremly sick for the past three weeks and spent the last week in the hospital. Make a long story short and after gallbladder removal, she was diagnosed with the abdominal migranes. She is on 3 medicines for it, one to help with the pain and one for nausea, and then the one that she will take for now on on a daily basis. You just have to learn to deal with it and figure out what triggers it.. Good luck… Luckily we found a great doctor at Cooks childrens Hospital in Ft. Worth, TX…

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Lindsay Rider September 22, 2010 at 7:05 am

Sheryl,

Please, I am interested in learning more about your daughter’s symptoms with abdominal migraines. My daughter also had her gallbladder and appendix removed this past July, and she is still having awful belly pains. Up high in the pit of her stomach, and down low beneath her belly button in a band pattern. I am suspecting abdominal migraines. She is currently taking Cholestyramine (Prevalite powder) for excess bile absorbtion which was causing diarrhea after every meal since her gallbladder was removed. The Pediatric GI Team at Cleveland Clinic have done mulitple tests/procedures with little results, aside from the abnormal gallbladder function. She is on Zantac 150 twice a day as well, but nothing is helping her.

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Sheryl January 18, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I’m sorry I never went back and checked this site, but hope your child is doing better by now and they drs have been able to diagnose and find a treatment right for your child. My daughter now as the IBS ontop of the abdominal migraines and the head migraines, but right now everything going well besides lossing so much weight. Medicines are helping they are supposed to. Let me know how yall are doing..

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Lori December 19, 2011 at 10:29 pm

What doctor at Cooks Childrens Hospital did you see? If you dont mind me asking.

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Sheryl January 18, 2012 at 9:39 pm

She sees Dr. Bangole Osuntokun(oceantoken) at the GI clinic at Cooks. He is awesome.

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Andrea August 30, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I found out at age 33 that I have cyclic vomiting syndrome to go with my migraines. I had what I thought was a stomach virus and threw up violently for at least 3 days. I went to my doctor’s office when 50 mg of phenergan would not even slow down the vomiting. After fluid resuscitation, more phenergan, and a gastroenterology consult, I learned that cyclic vomiting syndrome is a real thing. When I read more about the condition, I realized that I had many episodes when I was in my early teens. I had several episodes that year, and found that nothing really helped. All I could do is take antiemetics and try to keep hydrated. I did learn that most children with CVS outgrow it by adulthood. So those of you with little ones suffering with this, there is hope that there could be an end to it. I still tend to vomit a lot if I have a migraine, and it takes bigger doses of antiemetics to stop the vomiting. There is no cure for abdominal migraines or cyclic vomiting syndrome, but what I have read suggests that they are treated similarly to regular migraine headaches. Good luck in your search for relief.

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april April 12, 2012 at 9:05 am

i am 49yrs old and i suffer from stomach and head migrains and i have my hole life. To stop the vomitting i suggest you ask your doctor about ondancetron. I am very impressed with it.
Please let me know how things are and if you tried it and how well you find it works.
Good luck.

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Danielle Sullivan December 26, 2010 at 9:49 pm

My son has suffered from abdominal migraine/cyclic vomiting syndrome that has resulted in several hospitalizations. He’s been on several medications to no avail, but we finally have this disorder under control by using magnesium, l carnitine, COQ10, and multi-vitamins. We also use relaxation techniques such as shonishin and massage. He went from severe episodes every few weeks to one about every six months. It’s changed all of our lives.

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Danielle February 25, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I have abdominal migraines, too, but I had it for a little more than half of October, and pretty much all of December. It was really horrible, and I’ve missed 20 days of school because of it. None of the pediatritions knew what it was until I went to a children’s GI clinic half way through December. I had to go to the ER about seven times. None of medications the doctors prescribed would work, pain medications didn’t do anything, and if they did it was only for about 30 minutes. All nausea medications did was make me drowsy. The only thing that helped was the morphine they gave me at the ER. Plus, because of the vomiting and no appetite, I went from 114 to 92 pounds. Saying as how I also hadn’t gotten sick in four years before that, it was really horrible. It almost makes me think that people who only have it for a day are lucky! :)

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Ginger March 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Danielle my daughter also has CVS with abdominal migraines. This has been going on since she was eight years old and she is 13 now. You are right that the only pain meds that help is morphine. She lives on zofran and phenegren. She tried one abdominal migraine med called periactin and it made her so sleepy she couldn’t get out of bed. They are now going to try Imitrex and we will see how that do. My daughter using zofran for nausea every day and it doesn’t make you sleepy so ask your dr about that. We were in the ER over the weekend and sometimes the only help is the IV morphine. My daughter also has Crohn’s disease. Just hang in there and I know that going to drs is terrible especially when some times they can’t help. My daughter has had this for 5 years. Just ask for the zofran for the nausea. It doesn’t take it completely away but it helps some.

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Linda December 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm

My daughter was diagnosed after getting down to 60 lbs due to excessive voimiting, no appetite..and all of the other symptoms. She was put in the hospital in May 2008 for two weeks and was asking the doctor’s for more moriphine at the age of 11. I was mortified but it was the only thing that would help her. She was diagnosed on the second Thursday of her two week stint and they started treatment. She was released the next day and the first thing she wanted to eat was a Big Mac (go figure). Now that she has reached puberty she has been ok but just yesterday she had another attack coinciding with her mentrual cycle. I was told by the doctor’s that this could also be a possible trigger. Make a long story short the doctor prescribed her Imitrex and within 20 minutes of her taking this medication the pain had dulled, headache disappeared and she was ready to eat something. I was amazed. I am a fan of Imitrex now.

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Denise March 2, 2012 at 9:02 am

When my daughter was 3 when she started having vomiting episodes. She would throw up so much that within a few hours we were in the ER to get her hydrated and to try to stop the vomiting. This happened to her so often that I had a go bag ready complete with portable DVD player for her and overnight items for me. Her peds had no idea what was happening. We then went to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago to see a GI specialist. This is when we first heard of CVS and abdominal migraines. She is now 15 and it has been a while since she has had a CVS episode. However, the abdominal migraines are still happening. When she get an attack it can last 3 to 5 days. Needless to say she has missed a lot of school over the years. She takes one med for the nausea and Imitrex for the pain. We are going back to the GI because she gets no relief with either medicine. I was wondering what dosage of the Imitrex others are taking so when we go back to the GI I might have an idea of the dosages of others. Her current dosage is 25 mg that she takes 2 times a day. She weighs around 100 pounds. It naturally drops during an attack. Is this what others are taking? Some guidance would be appreciated.

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Dan March 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I had Abdominal Migraines for about 5 years before the several doctors that i had seen finally diagnosed it. Several times the doctors decided that it was my appendix, but thanks to my mother, they didn’t take it out. I saw a doctor about 4 years ago who prescribed Imitrex for me, and the next time i had a migraine, the imitrex worked perfectly. The symptoms were almost completely gone within a couple hours. Now, after about 8 years of migraines, I am migraine free. i haven had one in probably a year or so and it feels great.

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Rae April 8, 2011 at 4:51 pm

When I was 8 I started showing symptoms of a horrific stomach virus. I was vomiting, experiencing nausea and diarrhea. I was very scared because after the first episode I never got better . The symptoms would stop for short periods but they would always return. I use to refer to them as “waves”. I was constantly weak and sick. I went from 100 lbs to 70 because I could never keep food down. I also was horribly pale with dark circles under my eyes. I had countless tests and was poked with a bunch of needles but no one knew what it was. By the time I was 10 and still sick, we had had enough. It took such a toll on my family and my health (needless to say I had many sleepless nights and missed school). When an endoscopy was done and a biopsy was taken of my esophagus we thought we would get answers! Wrong. Nothing was “wrong” that they could see. They sent us to a gastrointestinal specialist who told me it could be IBS. The symptoms did not quite match up, but the med liberax she put me on helped. I was finally better, but I believe I was mis-diagnosed!! I think I had Abdominal Migraines all along! it feels good to know what was going on in my body :)

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Brandi April 17, 2011 at 11:49 am

My daughter was just diagnosed with abdominal migraines after 5 weeks of vomiting and severe stomach pain. We have done many tests and now we are doing preventive measures to stop the migraines. Her gastrointestinal doc is giving her a nausea prescription, as well as a prescription for migraines. Hoping that this will help eliminate severe episodes from happening. :)

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sue feather June 9, 2011 at 6:13 am

My son is 13 and it has been suggested by his doctor that he could be suffering from abdominal migraine. He doesnt get any pain or any other symptoms at all apart from feeling nauseous and sudden onset of vomiting, between the feeling of nausea and onset of vomiting there can be a space of 5 minutes upto a few hours, this can go on fo a day to four days of him being like this at least once a month, the doctor has prescribed sachets of paramax 500mg/5mg effervescent powder (paracetamol metoclopramide hydrochloride) to be taken on the onstart of an attack then every 4 hrs till not needed after. does this sound the same or similar to anyone else diagnosed with abdominal migraine?

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Sheryl January 18, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Just like with Head migraines, the stomach ones hit everyone differently. My daughter started with the throwing up and stomach hurting really badly. She could eat and immediatly stomach refused it. She would be dizzy and her poor eyes looked like racoon eyes cause they were so sunken in. She got so weark from not keeping anything in, but prayers that its been a year since she has had a bad flair up and we want it to stay away during her SR year of HS. Good luck to all of you out there

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Heather October 21, 2011 at 9:01 am

My 39 Yr. old husband has suffered from CVS for the past 15 years. It consumes our life every 4 to 6 months. He is treated like a drug addict at our local ER in Arlington TX. He has been to every GI doc in Arl. E.R treats him with IV fluids, Phenergan and Zofran but now nothing for the pain.in the past adding dilaudid, and Benadryl would stop the cycle .Now , they send him home from ER still vomiting, so we have to go back 2, 3 maybe 4 times. This is a nightmare and doesn’t seem to be getting any better. He misses work, he doesn’t get paid. I feel like we may evenly loose everything (house, car, etc) because of this misunderstood disorder. It helps to know that we are unfortunately not alone.

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Linda December 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Have they tried Imitrex? I am telling you I was AMAZED at how well and fast this worked.

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Heather December 29, 2011 at 11:18 am

We have not but i am going to call his GI doctor TODAY!!!Thanks so much.

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Sheryl January 18, 2012 at 9:49 pm

U should try calling to Cooks dr. Bangole Osuntuken and see if he or someone he could recommend to see u about the abdominal migraines. my daughter is 18 but he is still going to see her not sure if its because we have seen her for years before or if he sees others. Good Luck, we know how hard it is and how you can’t leave the house. Kalee was homebound from school

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Julie January 14, 2012 at 9:10 am

I am 41 years old and had 6 weeks off work suffering stomach pain which meant I was vomiting/nauseous and no appetite. I went to A&E on regular occasions when it got very severe. Nobody knew what it was and just sent me home. I was in agony day and night for weeks. When it finally began to feel a bit better I went back to work and was promptly sent to BUPA by my workplace to see if I was fit to be back in work. It was BUPA who suggested it was abdominal migraine and sent me to my GP with clear instructions for medication to be prescribed. I am now on Betablockers and tablets to stop me feeling sick when I need them and have not had a pain or head migraine either (I suffered up to 4 a week) since July. I have my life back!!

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Sheryl January 18, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Yeah. Good thing for the workplace being ontop of it. Hope you continue to do well.

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Denise March 2, 2012 at 12:04 am

My daughter was diagnosed with CVS and abdominal migraines when she was 4 years old. She is now 15. Fortunately, she hasn’t had a CVS episode in a few years. However, she is still suffering from the abdominal migraines. One of her meds is the Imitrex. It hasn’t been helping. She’s on 25mg tablets. I was wondering what mg others have been taking. We’re going back to her GI to talk this over.

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Danell March 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm

I have been spending the past year trying to get a diagnosis for the nausea and vomiting I have been having off and on since April 19, 2011. I went through several procedures to rule things out. I had 2 ERCP’s, a scope done of my esophogus and stomach as well as a colonoscopy to rule out Crohns and Graves. After a significant amount of research and countless hours of reading blogs and posts on this syndrome, I now know what has been going on with my daughter as well. She is 10 now and she has been dealing with severe abdominal pain as well as several ER visits since she was 2. I now have a mountain of paperwork to take to my doc so we can follow through with treatment for my daughter. We have been told time and time again that she wasn’t having proper bowel movements and have tried fiber and everything like it to solve it, but to no avail. Thanks to people like you here that have left info on theirs and their childrens symptoms, I have what I need to get a proper diagnosis for her and get her treated.

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Benny June 25, 2012 at 10:53 am

Hello..I am so thankful that i was able to search this forum.. I ahve a problem.My daughter has cvs and abdominal migraine. She has been in and out of the hospital every two weeks. Her doctor gives her nobaine as pain reliever. She has been addicted to it. She is taking Topamax but every month when her period is about to start, abdominal migraine starts. can someone give me the number of the doctor in cooks please.. I am from the philippines.please help me and my husband. thank you

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Katie November 19, 2012 at 10:11 pm

My daughter, Mia, has suffered from what the GI doc says is abdominal migraine syndrome. She is 10 and this has gone on since she was 4 or 5. She takes 12.5mg of Amitryptiline, which I have be told the low dose of this antidepressant can treat IBS. She has has and MRI and endoscopy with all good results. It seems these episodes come om from anxiety, whether good or bad. It has me at my wits end and crying when it these episodes happen. To see your child wretch stomach bile and miss school, is exhausting. Any advice for a child this age? She sometimes has migraines and sometimes just vomiting. I can’t see her suffer any longer.

Heartbroken Mother

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Jamey May 7, 2013 at 4:19 pm

We’ve been gong through this for about four years and had our first consult with Dr. Osuntuken today. We watched our son vomit for 4 years, and miss a ton of class days. The schools have been horrific as no one believes us. We in our 3rd school in three years and finally found someone who HAD this.
God Bless all of you…We know what you’re going through.

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Poornima March 3, 2013 at 6:26 am

My sister has this type of pain in lower abdominal and CVS please sujest how can we dignoz? What is the best treatment we had done all the test like CT scan, exera and more

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Michele March 20, 2013 at 10:58 am

My son is 17 yrs old and was diagnosed last fall with CVS. The cycles occurred about every 4 months but are now coming more often despite being put on 40 mg of amitriptyline daily. In the past once he receives IV fluids, IV morphine and IV Phenergan/Zofran he recovers within a day and has no issues for a few months. This week he had severe abdominal pain which then creates the nausea/vomiting and was seen in the ER (like many of you they want to treat the nausea/vomiting and act like we are drug seekers when I request pain medication for him) He was sent home and seemed to do fine during the day but woke me up last night (less than 24 hours from last ER visit) with extreme abdominal pain and then the N/V started. It was back to the ER. I hate to see him require all these pain medications in the ER. It makes me scared for him. We see a GI doctor but I made an appointment for a neurology consult as well. My son is very athletic and has a high pain tolerance and to see him cry because the pain is so unbearable makes me an emotional wreck. I guess my big question is that the abdominal pain comes on quickly without a warning and is very severe and the nausea and vomiting seem to occur because of the extreme pain. He does not get a headache with this. Does anyone have similar experience with the abdominal pain creating the N/V and what medications have you tried?
Thank you.

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James March 21, 2013 at 10:57 am

Michele,

Thanks for posting. I think you’re very wise to get a second opinion, especially with a neurologist. There are a number of things that could be causing the issue, and taking the time to confirm the diagnosis and look for the best treatment is the best thing you can do right now.

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Karen Austin March 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm

To answer your question about what meds others have tried, below is a list of what my daughter has been on – but none ever worked even a little:
Noravam; Bethanachol; Bentyl; Amitriptyline; Reglan; Motilin; Zofran; Ranitidine; Sucrasulfate; Hyoscyamine Sulfate; Triptans.

What did show us she had both head and abdominal migraine was the “migraine regimen” they use at Texas Children’s Hospital ER, which was a Toradol, Depakote and Reglan IV. As far as pain from 1-10, it took my daughter from a 9 to a 3 within 2 hours but only lasted a few hours. Without botox injections she has both head and abdominal migraine 24/7 – nonstop. I’ve read that they can grow out of this, so that is what I’m hoping for.

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Karen Austin March 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm

This can take years to diagnose, and even then, treatment may or may not help. My daughter is 14 and has abdominal migraines. She started getting sick at age 7. Vomiting, pain, diarrhea, etc. The specialists did every GI test in the book – 3 times in 4 years. She was so sick all the time that she had to have a garbage can next to her desk – when she could stay in school. The nurses all thought she was lying and just wanted to be home with mommy. Even my husband and other kids wondered. I knew differently. For 9 months it went away, then came back with a vengeance. But it came back with head migraines. She was so sick she had to stay home from school for almost the entire year. That was when I took her to a neurologist who diagnosed her. None of the triptans work for her pain. She takes Zoloft 100mg in the morning and 1,000mg depakote in the evening. She also take every preventative vitamin and herbal she can – magnesium citrate, riboflavin, etc. It got so bad that in January she got her first series of botox injections in her head and neck – and THAT was great because she had no more pain in her head. She will have them every 3 months. Her stomach, of course, still causes her problems that can not be prevented. We are doing an ultrasound and some other tests next week just to make sure it’s nothing other than abdominal migraine. I have to find her a psychologist who can help her deal with the pain and work on relaxation. This condition not only changed her personality 100% for the worse but prevented her from being able to learn in school. When she’s well, she’s a totally happy kid who loves doing things and gets good grades. It has been horrible seeing her suffer almost every single day all these years. Having a diagnosis was wonderful, but it’s a constant struggle for her. By the way – even now, after notes about her condition to the school nurses, they still treat her like she is a bother and lying. It is unbelievable.

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Sheryl May 7, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Dr Osuntokun is an amazing dr. He is the one who admitted our dr to Cooks over 6 years ago after she had seen numerous other drs and everyone thought she was making herself sick. Stick with him and he will make your son feel like a new kid!! Thankfully our school was great and dr home bounded her and teacher came to the house or she probably wouldn’t have made it.. Good luck to him and yourself cause its not easy watching your child go through it..

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Sheryl May 7, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Dr Osuntokun at cooks in ft worth Texas number is 6828851990. We have tried so many meds ontop of the many hospital stays but Ondansetron is a dissolvable nausea med that works great plus she takes amitriptyline, diphenoxylate daily for now on. We are now waiting to see a new dr at Baylor since she is now almost 20 years old..

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Jamey May 7, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Dr. Osuntokun thinks our son has Rumination syndrome. We have a proceedure scheduled for the first of next month. Hopefully, we’re on to something!

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