Abdominal Pain (chronic and recurrent)

Also known as: recurrent stomachache, bellyache, or tummy troubles, functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID)

What is chronic recurrent abdominal pain?

The abdomen is the area of the body below the chest, which includes the stomach and all the gut, plus other organs like the liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and bladder (and in girls ovaries) etc. Chronic and recurrent abdominal pain in children usually refers to the 10-15% of children who complain of recurrent pain in the abdomen for which no specific cause can be found. FAPS children are one form of Functional gastrointestinal disorder (FGID).

What causes Functional abdominal pain?

As many diseases may present with recurrent abdominal pain, all should be excluded before a diagnosis of FAPS is made. The exact cause of FAPS in children is unknown however it has been suggested that there may be an increased sensitivity to the normal nerve signals from the bowel to the child's brain.

What are the symptoms of FAPS?

The pain is usually located around the belly button (however can be located anywhere in the abdomen), it can occur slowly or suddenly and it may be constant, or increases or decrease in severity. The pain occurs frequently, results in multiple emergency room visits, may increase during stressful times and pain may be less when the child is being occupied with an activity. The description of the pain is usually more than facial or other indications of pain would indicate and more than an abdominal examination would suggest and children often have psychological difficulties like anxiety etc. It can interfere with the child's participation in sports and schooling.

What are abdominal pain (FAPS) care options?

There are a number of treatment options available which include behavioral psychotherapy, a variety of medications and hypnotherapy.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: January 28, 2020 09:50 AM