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Bowel Obstruction

What Is a Bowel Obstruction?

A bowel obstruction is when something blocks your large or small intestine. This blockage makes it difficult to pass waste or gas through your body and can lead to serious complications. A bowel obstruction can be caused by several conditions, including:

  • A twisted section of bowel, which stops food and waste from passing through the intestine

  • Narrowing of the intestine passage from inflammation, scar tissue, hernia, tumor or other type of growth

  • Damaged blood vessels that make it difficult for the bowel to contract and push waste out of the body

  • Paralyzed bowel muscles

Symptoms

A bowel obstruction is uncomfortable and can become painful. Symptoms include:

  • Constipation – You may have difficulty passing stool out of the body.

  • Inability to pass gas – Not being able to relieve stomach cramps through gas may be a sign of bowel obstruction.

  • Stomach cramps – Cramps can be severe and may come and go.

  • Swollen belly – Your stomach may become noticeable swollen or look bloated.

  • Lack of appetite – A full intestine can keep you from feeling hungry.

  • Nausea or vomiting – You may feel sick to your stomach and/or vomit.

  • Diarrhea – Loose, watery stool more than three times in one day may be a sign of bowel obstruction.

Treatment Options

A bowel obstruction is a serious health condition. If you suspect you have an obstructed bowel, contact your doctor right away. They may refer you to emergency care or a gastroenterologist specialist who can help diagnose your condition and identify the cause.

Treatment for bowel obstruction includes:

  • Surgery – Blockages may need surgery to remove the barrier in the intestine and allow stool to pass.

  • Stent – A stent, made from wire mesh, can be placed in the bowel at the blockage to help the intestine to open.

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