Abdominal Pain Disorders in Children.
Children often complain about stomach pain. It’s such a common problem that many parents don’t know what to do. They don’t know how severe the pain actually is, if the child is telling the truth, or if the child is just using it as an excuse to get out of going to school because it always happens around test time. Half the time, parents don’t take their child to the hospital for reoccurring stomach pains because, by the time they arrive the episode has passed. The pain may seem something minor to parents, but if a child does experience frequent stomach pain, it may be a symptom of a larger problem.
Recurrent Abdominal Pain in Childhood
Recurrent abdominal pain has been described as three instances of stomach pain that happens in a three month span. It also must be severe enough to interrupt daily life. Varying studies have shown that anywhere from 10% to 45% of children are affected by recurrent abdominal pains. While most children do experience stomach pain to one degree or another, there is little that the medical community has been able to do in order to diagnose or treat these problems. This is because children have a difficult time explaining their symptoms, and when examined, health care professionals have an equally difficult time finding the cause. Furthermore, treatments are not consistent from one doctor to the next, and often have no medical basis.
Cases without a Clear Cause
Many cases simply do not have a physical cause that can found through testing. Studies performed over the las 50 years have routinely pointed toward stress and other psychological problems often accompany episodes of abdominal pain. Basically, the more stress, anxiety, or depression a child suffers, the more apt that one of them is causing, or at least contributing, to the stomach pain. One possible explanation for this pain is called “visceral hyperalgesia,” which stomach pain that stems from how stress changes the way the brain communicates with the digestive system. Another possible explanation is grounded in the child’s psychological influences from family and school, also known as the “biopsychosocial model.” Under this explanation, the main reason the child is experiencing severe stomach pains is because the child’s parents or other people have convinced him that he needs to go see a doctor.
Organic disease (physical cause) is the factor behind 30% of all children arrive at a hospital with recurring abdominal pain. A series of studies were conducted on the diagnosis of children that reported abdominal pain. In one of these studies, 22% of the children who underwent an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy were ultimately diagnosed with having the H. pylori bacteria, which is commonly found in patients with chronic gastritis and stomach ulcers. Another disorder routinely found in the study was abnormal small-bowel transit, which is common with dyspepsia (indigestion). Other proposed conditions for causing recurring abdominal pain were abdominal migraine, food allergies, and constipation. Researchers suggested that allergies and constipation were usually do to poor diets and fluids.
There are plenty of drug-free treatments for children with abdominal pain; however, there isn’t much reliable information concerning their effectiveness. A recent review of studies sought to clear up that issue by compiling data from studies that used alternative methods to treat Functional Abdominal Pain Syndrome (FAPS). What they found was that treatments such as hypnosis and cognitive behavior therapy were more effective than standard treatments. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and VSL#3, both probiotics, where also shown to be more effective than a placebo in treating FAPS. While there have been several studies, the review showed that there is a need for more clinical studies on drug-free treatments.