A functional disorder refers to a disorder or disease where the primary abnormality is an altered physiological function (the way the body works), rather than an identifiable structural or biochemical cause. It characterizes a disorder that generally can not be diagnosed in a traditional way; that is, as an inflammatory, infectious, or structural abnormality that can be seen by commonly used examination, x-ray, or blood test.

In this context, "functional" means that the symptoms occur within the expected range of the body's behavior. (Examples: Shivering after a cold swim is a symptom, but not due to disease. Or, a runner's leg cramp is very painful, but the muscle is healthy.)

Functional disorders are characterized by symptoms. Childhood functional gastrointestinal disorders include a variable combination of often age-dependent, chronic or recurrent symptoms not explained by structural or biochemical abnormalities.

Examples of these symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain or bellyaches
  • Abdominal distention
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Fecal soiling
  • Bloating
  • Belching
  • Nausea
  • Retching
  • Vomiting,
  • Regurgitation
  • Heartburn
  • Food refusal

Examples of functional GI disorders in kids and teens include:

  • Infant regurgitation
  • Cyclic vomiting sydrome
  • Functional dyspepsia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Functional abdominal pain
  • Abdominal migraine
  • Aerophagia
  • Functional diarrhea
  • Functional constipation
  • Functional fecal retention
  • Functional non-retentive fecal soiling

Childhood functional GI disorders, while distressing, are not dangerous when symptoms and parental concerns are addressed appropriately. However, failed diagnosis and inappropriate treatments may be the cause of needless physical and emotional suffering.

We encourage you to find out more.

Specific information about functional GI and motility disorders in infants, kids and teens can be found at this IFFGD web site: www.aboutkidsgi.org.

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