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What are Bowel Obstruction Symptoms?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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A bowel obstruction is a blockage in the intestine that stops food from passing though the entire digestive tract. The condition may be caused by several different factors and may have several noticeably uncomfortable symptoms. It is important to understand the main bowel obstruction symptoms in order to seek prompt and appropriate medical care.

The most common causes of a bowel obstruction include hernias, tumors, and growth of fibrous blocks called adhesions. Each of these causes may result in slightly varying bowel obstruction symptoms. Generally, tests are needed to show what type of condition is causing the obstruction, since many symptoms are shared between all varieties.

Most bowel obstruction symptoms are felt throughout the stomach and abdominal region. Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms, as is abdominal cramps. These symptoms are common to many conditions, including influenza, food poisoning, or even simple indigestion. If a bowel obstruction exists, however, these symptoms will likely be continuous and may begin to get worse and more painful with time.

One of the major bowel obstruction symptoms that can indicate a serious problem is the inability to have a bowel movement or pass gas. Since this symptom is inconsistent with most temporary illnesses such as the flu, nausea or cramping along with an inability to defecate may be a clear indication of a blockage, as the digested and processed material is incapable of passing through the normal stages of waste removal.

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As bowel obstruction symptoms and the condition worsens, the stomach may begin to look swollen or distended. This may be a result of a growing amount of matter trapped by the blockage, or may be a sign of a growing tumor or increased inflammation of a hernia. Distention should be treated as a serious symptom, and be brought to the immediate attention of a physician or health care provider.

Without treatment, serious consequences may result from a bowel obstruction. Parts of the intestine or colon may actually be choked off from blood supply to the point of tissue death. Infection in the abdomen also becomes increasingly likely as the condition progresses, and may lead to dangerous tears in the lining of the digestive tract.

People with a high risk of developing a bowel obstruction should be on the lookout for potential symptoms. High risk groups include people with Crohn's disease, those who have had pelvic or abdominal surgery, and people with a history of stomach or intestinal cancer. Since an obstruction can also occur in the colon, people with a history of colon cancer or inflammation should also keep a careful watch.

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