By: Miguel Saps, MD
University of Miami Hospital, Miami, FL
Dr. Saps is the recipient of the 2009 IFFGD Research Award for Junior Investigator, Pediatrics. Dr. Saps is an innovative researcher who has done much to increase understanding of the prevalence and impact of functional GI disorders among children, as well as how to help children with functional abdominal pain. He is instrumental in establishing clinical care models for children with complex pain predominant conditions.
What is functional abdominal pain?
Functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are a group of conditions. They are characterized by a combination of GI symptoms. These arise from the interaction of multiple biological, psychological, and social factors. A common characteristic of all these disorders is the absence of an identifiable anomaly in the usually sought medical workup.
Among, these various disorders there are some in which pain is the predominant symptom. They are frequent in children and are commonly grouped under the generic term functional abdominal pain. Functional abdominal pain may be associated with other GI symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, or constipation. Sometimes the pain occurs alone.
Pain may be frequent or constant and very bothersome, greatly impairing the quality of life. Pain may also be intense and occur at any time of the day or even at night. A number of factors may trigger the pain. For example, it may be brought on by emotional stressors or following a gastrointestinal infection. But, other times there are no clear triggers to the onset of abdominal pain. A relation between food and onset of pain is frequently observed. However, in scientific studies there is no clinical evidence that specific foods are related to the onset of functional abdominal pain symptoms.
How common is functional abdominal pain?
Children may miss school, sport or social activities and parents frequently miss work to care for a child with chronic abdominal pain. Almost 1 in 4 children misses an average of 2 days during the school year due to abdominal pain. One in 10 parents miss work to care for their children with abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is not only a common and chronic condition but also an important factor that can potentially disrupt family life.
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