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Last Updated on February 22, 2024

Abdominal epilepsy is a rare and often misunderstood condition that includes extreme abdominal pain and discomfort. It is accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and altered consciousness. While more prevalent among children, abdominal epilepsy can also occur in adults.

Living with epilepsy, regardless of its form, can be isolating. If you or someone you know is experiencing this condition, epilepsy clinical trials are being conducted at different clinical research organizations across Illinois and Michigan.

Continue reading this blog to learn more about abdominal epilepsy, its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What is Abdominal Epilepsy?

Abdominal epilepsy or autonomic epilepsy is a rare form of epilepsy characterized by seizures in the digestive system. A study conducted in 2016 suggested that this type of epilepsy stems from abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Abdominal epilepsy usually lasts a few minutes and occurs at least once daily, or sometimes several times a day.

Why does Epilepsy Cause Abdominal Pain?

The most common opinion holds that focal seizures, either simple or complex, are what lead to abdominal seizures. These seizures are specific to one area of the brain and are distinguished by how they impact the individual. While complex seizures result in confusion or a disoriented feeling, simple focal seizures can induce twitching or changes in physical sensations.

The stomach pain during these seizures may be brought on by the twitching or spasming of abdominal muscles in reaction to a simple focused seizure, however, there is still uncertainty around what else may cause it.


The exact causes of abdominal or autonomic epilepsy are not well understood. It is believed to be associated with focal seizures in the brain, which can lead to symptoms such as vomiting and abdominal pain. Scientists believe that autonomic epilepsy has something to do with the inner workings of the brain.

Even though it might seem strange to study the brain when the main issue is stomach pain, looking into the brain helps tell the difference between abdominal epilepsy and other stomach aches. Because abdominal or autonomic epilepsy is rare, especially in children, researchers still don’t know much about what exactly causes it.


Episodes of sharp abdominal pain

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Abdominal Epilepsy in Children

Abdominal epilepsy is most commonly seen in children, and it is suspected in cases of unexplained recurrent abdominal pain, especially in children with a history of epilepsy. If an individual suspects that their child experiences abdominal seizures, a detailed description of their pain and symptoms should be shared with the doctor as this can greatly help in diagnosis.

Abdominal or Autonomic Epilepsy in Adults

abdominal epilepsy in adults

While abdominal or autonomic epilepsy is more commonly observed in children, there are documented cases of this condition in adults. In adults, abdominal epilepsy can often be mistaken for other physical and psychological problems.

Key Differences between Abdominal Epilepsy in Children and Adult

 Frequency  More common Less common
OnsetDiagnosed between 5-10 years of ageTypically starts later in   life
  Overlapping conditionsCommonly misdiagnosed as Functional Bowel SyndromeMisdiagnosed with other existing physical and psychological problems
Other SymptomsMay experience headache, dizziness, and behavioral changesMay experience anxiety, depression and sleep disturbance

Diagnosing Abdominal Epilepsy

Diagnosing abdominal or autonomic epilepsy may be a prolonged process because of its rarity. It potentially leads to confusion with other gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. Moreover, the common occurrence of feeling sick and nauseous as a warning sign (aura) for individuals with different types of epilepsy can contribute to misinterpretation of symptoms, as doctors may mistake them for general auras. Several diagnostic procedures include:

  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scans: CT scans of both the abdomen and brain help identify physical abnormalities or lesions in the area.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): It provides detailed internal images of the brain to detect abnormalities and evaluate neurological conditions.
  • Abdominal Ultrasound: It is employed to assess the structure and function of abdominal organs.
  • Endoscopy of the Gastrointestinal Tract: This involves using a flexible tube with a camera to inspect the gastrointestinal tract’s interior visually. This procedure helps identify abnormalities, inflammation, or other issues in the gastrointestinal system.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests help rule out other potential causes of abdominal symptoms.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): EEG measures electrical activity in the brain by recording brain waves. It is a crucial tool for diagnosing epilepsy and other neurological disorders. Abnormal patterns in the EEG may indicate epilepsy or seizures.

Is Abdominal Epilepsy Curable?

The treatment for abdominal or autonomic epilepsy involves administering medications that help control seizures. However, due to a lack of controlled studies, alternative medications may be equally effective.

In emergencies, “rescue medications” may be necessary to swiftly halt a seizure in hazardous conditions. These medications are known for their rapid action on the brain to stop seizures quickly. Examples include:

  • Diazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Midazolam

The administration of epilepsy medications has shown a significant reduction in abdominal symptoms, and emergencies are infrequent.

Check Out: Neurology Clinical Trials in Illinois and Michigan


Abdominal or autonomic epilepsy is a rare condition characterized by episodes of abdominal pain, which can be accompanied by other symptoms such as seizures, nausea, vomiting, and altered consciousness. The diagnosis of abdominal epilepsy is challenging and often involves ruling out other potential conditions. The diagnosis and treatment of abdominal or autonomic epilepsy requires a multidisciplinary approach, involving neurologists, gastroenterologists, and other specialists. At our forefront is Dr. Muhammad A. Khan, a renowned Neurologist with extensive expertise in conducting Neurology Clinical Trials. His valuable insights and dedication to research contribute significantly to improving patient outcomes suffering from epilepsy.

Wahiba Shakeel

A skilled professional with a strong foundation in Biosciences and a keen interest in research. Leveraging her marketing expertise, Wahiba is making a meaningful impact in the healthcare industry, bringing a fresh and unique perspective to the field.

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