According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, chronic abdominal pain, sometimes referred to as functional abdominal pain (FAP), occurs because of sensitivity to nerve impulses in the gut. But kids with this disorder tend to experience more than just belly pain - they may also miss more schooldays, suffer social withdrawal, and feel anxious and depressed about their condition. Researchers from Goryeb Children's Hospital/Atlantic Health System in Morristown, New Jersey, examined the extent to which functional abdominal pain affects kids and families.
Sixty-five 5- to 18-year-old children answered questions about how FAP affected their physical, emotional, and social life and their ability to function at school. Their parents also answered questions about how functional abdominal pain affected their child's quality of life. Later, researchers compared the results of children with FAP with the survey results of healthy children and children with other types of gastrointestinal disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Kids with FAP reported having a quality of life similar to those of kids with other chronic gastrointestinal conditions, such as IBD and GERD. Children with FAP scored lower on the quality of life index compared with healthy kids. Parents rated the quality of life of their children with FAP even lower than the children themselves did.
In addition, about 44% of parents noted that they too experienced bowel problems. The study authors suggest that in some cases, children may pick up on their parent's experiences, which could contribute to their anxiety about belly pain or their reports of a lower quality of life.
What This Means to You: The results of this study suggest that both children and parents feel that functional abdominal pain worsens a child's overall quality of life. Other studies have indicated that kids with FAP may be less likely to participate in sports and school activities and are more likely to consider their lives a failure, compared with kids with no abdominal pain.
If your child has chronic abdominal pain, talk to your child's doctor about how the condition has affected your child's life. The doctor may be able to make suggestions about treatments or strategies for helping your child feel more comfortable at home and at school.
Source: Nader N. Youssef, MD; Thomas G. Murphy, MD; Annette L. Langseder, RN; Joel R. Rosh, MD; Pediatrics, January 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: January 2006