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What is a Stomach Migraine?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A stomach migraine is an episode of severe stomach pain associated with nausea and vomiting. It is referred to as a stomach migraine or abdominal migraine because it has all the hallmarks of a migraine, without the headache. People who have stomach migraines can also develop migraine headaches. This migraine variant is relatively rare and as a result, it is sometimes difficult to diagnose.

Typically, a person first experiences a stomach migraine as a child. As the patient grows older, he or she generally will develop more conventional migraine headaches instead. People with stomach migraines usually have a family history of migraine. They may experience aura symptoms, such as visual disturbances, before the stomach pain onsets.

In a stomach migraine, the stomach hurts in a generalized way and causes such as infection, allergic reaction, or injury can be ruled out. Some people have migraine triggers such as flashing lights, radical changes in temperature, or certain foods that can be linked to their migraines. People usually feel nauseous and may vomit from the pain, and likely will have little interest in food while the episode of stomach pain occurs.

During a stomach migraine, analgesic drugs and anti-nausea drugs can be provided to help the patient feel more comfortable. Between episodes, medications can be prescribed for preventative treatment to reduce the risk of recurrence. Individual patients respond differently and it may be necessary to try several drugs to find a treatment that works. It is also necessary to avoid triggers that can lead to migraines as well.

Stomach migraines can interfere with the ability to learn, work, play, or engage in other activities. Usually the pain is severe enough that the patient does not want to do anything more strenuous than lying down. Some patients feel more comfortable in dark places, and if they can sleep, it may improve their symptoms.

This condition is unusual enough that a doctor may not think of stomach migraines when a child is brought in complaining of severe stomach pain. A series of diagnostic tests can be run to rule out potential causes such as appendicitis or infection. Providing a full and complete family history can speed the diagnostic process considerably, as it may reveal facts that family members do not necessarily think are relevant, but turn out to be of key importance. People with a family history of migraine headaches, for example, would probably not think to mention it when bringing a child in for stomach pain, since the two things would appear unrelated.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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