Intestinal obstructions can be severe and affect many aspects of life. These blockages in the small or large intestine prevent the body from properly digesting food. The condition can be caused by anything from adhesions or scar tissue left over after surgery to existing conditions such as Crohn’s or diverticulitis. Hernias may also be responsible for forming intestinal obstructions. There are many symptoms of intestinal obstruction, and with prompt treatment, they can be successfully corrected.
Stomach pain that is a result of an intestinal obstruction can feel like a dull ache or cramping. This is the most common symptom of all bowel blockages. Although the majority of stomach aches are not serious, if they are a symptom of obstruction, they may be. Monitoring your stomach ache is usually a good way to tell if it is serious or not. If they come and go, there is more chance of an obstruction as opposed to if you only experience one. However, if the pain increases or you develop a fever, seek out prompt medical care.
Constipation is another common condition that can affect different people for different reasons. As a rule, if you pass stool less than three times per week, it is likely a doctor will diagnose you with constipation. If you notice a change in your bowel movements, that they are occurring less than usual or the stool is harder to pass, you are probably constipated. For the most part, constipation is due to diet, but in rarer cases, it could be due to an obstruction.
If a lack of appetite is severe enough to cause weight loss and malnutrition, it may be cause for concern. A loss of appetite that’s the result of an obstruction in the bowel tends not to be a stand-alone symptom; often, people with an intestinal obstruction will both lack hunger and feel bloated.
Bloating is most commonly the result of excess gas trapped in the muscles of the digestive system. While usually benign, it can be extremely uncomfortable and sometimes painful to experience. In other cases such as food intolerances, your stomach may even appear visibly distended. For the most part, if your stomach feels swollen after eating, it is likely due to an intolerance. However, if the bloating comes hand-in-hand with abdominal cramps or constipation, it could be an obstruction.
Malaise is characterized as a general feeling of discomfort or mental unease and often accompanies fatigue. Overall weakness in your body, as well as a disinterest in your usual activities, can be one of the earliest symptoms that something is wrong. If you suddenly lack the energy to go about your day and can’t explain it, this could be due to a lack of properly absorbed nutrients, which might be caused by an obstruction.
Inability to Pass Gas
Getting rid of gas via belching or flatus is very much normal. If the gas isn’t moving well through your system, it may feel impossible to let it out and can also be incredibly painful if there is a blockage. Trapped wind also tends to come with visible bloating or a hard stomach. If you are finding it difficult to pass gas and you have other symptoms, speak to a doctor and get checked for an intestinal obstruction.
Physicians call this early satiety — feeling that sensation of fullness you get after you have eaten a meal before you have eaten, or when you have eaten only a little. Persistent fullness could be a sign that your digestive system isn’t operating as it should. Occasionally, nausea and bloating will accompany early satiety. The symptom can also lead to weight loss and, because there is nothing to digest, constipation and acid reflux.
Another possible symptom of an intestinal obstruction, nausea can be acute, affecting you only briefly, or can be a prolonged condition that may become debilitating. It may or may not lead to vomiting.
Where constipation is a sign of a full obstruction, diarrhea can be a sign of a partial blockage, when only part of the intestines are obstructed. When this occurs, liquid stool leaks around the obstruction because solid stool cannot form. Some medical professionals call this overflow diarrhea, and it may persist until the blockage clears. When you have overflow diarrhea, you never feel like you have completely emptied your bowels, leaving you in a constant state of discomfort.
Vomiting is one of the earliest signs of an obstruction of the small intestine. The vomit is usually food that hasn’t been digested, due to it having nowhere else to go. For the most part, if you’re experiencing vomiting as a result of a blockage, you will vomit in large amounts. Extremely rarely, a blockage can cause fecal vomiting, when there is stool in the regurgitation.