Chronic Abdominal Pain
Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of chronic abdominal pain caused by an underlying condition may include:

  • Pain that wakes your child
  • Significant vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, bloating or gas
  • Blood in the stool
  • Unintentional weight loss or slowed growth (height)
  • Changes in bowel or bladder function
  • Pain or bleeding with urination
  • Abdominal tenderness or fullness (mass)

Symptoms of chronic abdominal pain with an unknown cause (functional abdominal pain) may include:

  • Pain that is difficult to describe and locate, or centered around the belly button
  • Pain that is usually unrelated to meals, activity or bowel movements
  • Pain that typically lasts less than one hour

Most children with functional abdominal pain don't have problems with growth, weight loss, fever, rash, joint pain or swelling.

Many children with functional abdominal pain have a family history of functional digestive problems such as IBS.

Stress or anxiety may trigger functional abdominal pain. The pain may occur during periods of stress or change, such as the birth of a new sibling, illness of a family member or starting school.

In some cases, a child can develop chronic abdominal pain related to a need for attention. However, it's important to note that a child rarely "fakes" pain. Acknowledge that your child's pain is real and offer sympathy, support and reassurance, but take care to avoid reinforcing the pain by giving it undue attention.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Gastroenterology & Nutritional Disorders

Gastroenterology & Liver Practice
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2813
Fax: (415) 476-1343
Appointment information