Partial Bowel Obstruction – Symptoms to Watch Out For

Obstruction of the bowel exists when the food, liquids, waste and flatus cannot move through the intestine or bowel. The obstruction can occur either in the small or large intestine. The partial obstruction is usually there in the smaller intestines. The bowel refers to the hollow tube that makes the digested food move from the stomach to the anus. The two sections of the bowel i.e. the small bowel {where the nutrients are absorbed and digested} and the large bowel {where the digested food forms into stool} are very essential in maintaining the bowel’s functioning. When it gets obstructed, the food, liquid and other secretions start accumulating due to the blockage which can collapse the segments. The bowel’s normal functions get affected and can also cause medical emergency if left untreated. On an average, almost 20% of the patients with abdominal pain suffer from bowel obstruction , most of which takes place in the small intestine.

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Causes of partial bowel obstruction

  1. Paralytic ileus: in this condition the muscle contractions of the intestine stop. The dilation of the bowel restricts any kind of movement to the anus. Underlying medical conditions such heart problems, kidney disorders; thyroid, diabetes etc can also worsen this condition. It can also occur post pregnancy or a surgery.
  2. Scar tissues, also known as Adhesions that take place after a surgery is also a cause of a partial bowel obstruction. Other common reasons include hernia, volvulus, and malignant tumor.
  3. Severe constipation
  4. Diseases affecting walls of the intestines like the Crohn’s disease or diverticular disease
  5. Gallstones
  6. Folding of the intestines, also known as Intussusception
  7. Congenital malformation of the bowel
  8. Consuming too much processed meat. It can also cause bowel cancer.
  9. Previous surgeries of the abdomen, pelvic surgery or therapies such as radiation therapy. Either or both of these can be a cause of the obstruction.
  10. Among women the history of disorders such as the ovarian and colonic disorders can also lead to the obstruction.

partial bowel obstruction

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Partial Bowel Syndrome – Symptoms

Since this article is focused on symptoms, they have been described briefly as follows:

  1. Abdominal pain with cramps. Pain in the belly that keeps coming and going. The pain is usually below the belly but can occur around the belly button too. If the belly pain is severe then you should immediately seek a doctor. At times the blood supply of the intestine gets cut or there can also be formation of a hole in the intestine.
  2. Vomiting and feeling of nausea
  3. A hard belly, usually because of bloating.
  4. Difficulty in passing gas. Since the intestine gets blocked it also causes constipation and diarrhea, if the intestine is partially blocked.
  5. One must always be careful with the Abdominal Signs because the contents of the intestine accumulate and cause a lot of pain, bloating and distention. A lot of gas can be formed and cause a lot of trouble as the passage for it to pass gets blocked.
  6. There can also be a significant loss in the appetite as the food’s movement gets restricted, leading to constant belching, Vomiting and Nausea. One can keep feeling full even after eating very less due to the undigested contents.
  7. There can be pain around the umbilicus or in the epigastrium. Obstipation- vomiting, with full obstruction can also occur. Severe pain in these conditions indicates strangulation and can also cause breathing problems and lead to excessive sweating and discomfort.
  8. Hyperactive peristalsis with cramps that are high-pitched.
  9. Palpable dilated loops of the bowel
  10. Infarction that makes the abdomen very tender. The abdomen also gets silenced due to auscultation, also known as minimal peristalsis.
  11. Oliguria and Shock to the intestines
  12. Swollen abdomen along with loud borborygmi, empty rectum and an obstructing tumor may be palpable.
  13. Deficiency of fluid and electrolytes.
  14. Acute or mild Fever.
  15. Tachycardia – This mostly occurs at the last stage and happens due to strangulation

The symptoms are abrupt and can also be temporary. However these symptoms can also be significant of problems other than the bowel obstruction. Some people might not even have many symptoms but can still be diagnosed with partial or complete obstruction. Obstruction is usually confused with constipation but the two are different.

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