Functional abdominal pain refers to recurrent abdominal pain and is one of the most common childhood and adolescent complaints. It is true pain that can be quite severe. The vast majority of children and adolescents with recurrent abdominal pain have functional abdominal pain or “non-organic” pain, which means the pain is not caused by physical abnormalities.
Patients usually fall into one of four categories:
Most pediatric gastroenterologists believe that abnormal contractions in the intestines and overly sensitive nerves in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract cause the abdominal pain. The perception of pain is thought to involve input from both the nerves in the GI tract and the processing of these signals from the brain. As a result, psychological stress, anxiety or depression may provoke pain episodes. The pain may also occur without an obvious cause.
Symptoms of functional abdominal pain include:
If a physical abnormality is causing your child's recurrent abdominal pain (organic abdominal pain), he or she may experience the following symptoms:
Children with symptoms of recurrent abdominal pain do not often require additional testing. However, a pediatric specialist may perform the following tests to make a diagnosis:
Functional abdominal pain is treatable and causes no long-term health problems. Treatments include:
If your child has organic abdominal pain, treatment will involve managing the underlying condition.
Visit the websites below to find support groups and services and learn more about functional abdominal pain.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition operates this website for parents, children and teens and provides information on living with functional abdominal pain.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.
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