Abdominal Pain or Discomfort

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Abdominal Pain in Children

Abdominal pain is a very common problem in children and adolescents. There are many causes of abdominal pain originating from the various organs in the abdomen- the stomach, the digestive tract, the liver, kidneys, pancreas or spleen. Chronic abdominal pain may be due to organic causes or functional causes.

Organic causes vs benign (functional) causes of abdominal pain in children

Organic causes: Upper abdominal pain in general points towards problems in the stomach such as gastritis, stomach ulcers, liver conditions or pancreas involvement. Lower abdominal pain suggests involvement of the small intestine and colon such as inflammatory bowel disease, allergic gut condition etc.

Functional causes: Frequently, recurrent abdominal pain may be due to functional causes which essentially refer to altered sensation or function of the gut. This means the gut either contract in a different way, or the patient experiences the sensation of normal gut movement as painful. Treatment is targeted towards improving the child’s symptoms.

Assessment

Paediatric gastroenterologists see hundreds of children and adolescents with abdominal pain and are highly experienced in differentiating between organic and functional causes. Depending on the history and physical examination, targeted investigations including blood tests, stool tests, breath tests and scans are ordered. Symptomatic medications may be prescribed depending on your child’s symptoms. Occasionally, an endoscopy (gastroscopy and/or colonoscopy) is performed if organic causes such as gastric problems, ulcers or inflammatory bowel disease are suspected.