If you want to know what are the common causes of small intestine blockage, then you cannot miss this article. Causes, symptoms and treatment of intestinal blockage are described here. Scroll down to know how you can prevent the situation from worsening.
The digestive tract starts in the mouth and ends at the anus. Teeth, salivary glands, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, small and large intestines, etc. are some of the main parts of the digestive system. When the digestive system works smoothly, the body receives the required amount of nutrients. Otherwise, despite a healthy diet, the body is deprived of the essential nutrients. Dysfunction of any part of the digestive system can lead to low energy levels, recurring infections, pain, diseases and disorders.
If the small or large intestine is blocked, stools cannot move easily through the intestine. The condition leads to various health problems and if not treated promptly, it may prove to be fatal. Small intestine blockage can be either partial or complete. It can be a mechanical obstruction like hernia or tumor, or a pseudo obstruction where no physical obstruction is present, but your intestine doesn’t work properly, and exhibits the same symptoms of small bowel blockage (or the symptoms of mechanical obstruction). Any type of blockage can cause abdominal pain and discomfort. Any person of any age can suffer from intestinal blockage.
Causes of Small Bowel Obstruction
Small intestine problems that involve blockages are referred to as ‘bowel blockage’ in layman’s language and as ‘paralytic ileus’, ‘intestinal volvulus’, ‘colonic ileus’ or ‘pseudo-obstruction – intestinal’, in medical language. Common causes of small intestinal blockage are listed below.
- Hernias: When a part of the small intestine protrudes into another part of your body, it is called hernia. Hernia can trap the loop of your intestine, causing obstruction.
- Tumor: A tumor in the small intestine can block the passage of food and even of fluids, causing pain. Cancerous tumors can block the intestine, leading to life-threatening problems.
- Intestinal Adhesions: Intestinal adhesions are the bands of fibrous tissues in the abdominal cavity, which can be present at birth (congenital) or which can be noticed after abdominal surgery, known as internal scar tissues. Intestinal obstruction is experienced when the tissues bind sections of your intestine, blocking the passage of food and fluids.
About 90% of the cases of small intestine blockage belong to the above categories. In the remaining 10% cases, following causes are observed.
- Twisting of the intestine (volvulus)
- Inflammation or scarring from Crohn’s disease
- Telescoping of a portion of the intestine into another portion (intussusception)
- Narrowing of the outlet from the stomach (stricture)
- Chemical, electrolyte, or mineral disturbances (such as decreased potassium levels)
- Decreased blood supply to the abdominal area
- Muscle and nerve disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease
- Intra-abdominal infection
- Swallowing a nonfood item
- Kidney or lung disease
- Use of certain medications, especially narcotics
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Diarrhea, in some cases
- Inability to have a bowel movement or pass gas, severe discomfort
- Constipation, in some cases
- Problem in urination
- Bloating in lower abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Bloody stools and weight loss, mostly due to cancer.
- Abdominal swelling
- Abdominal tenderness, constant/intermittent pain or abdominal cramps
Chronic constipation may lead to impacted dry and hard mass of stool in the large intestine and can result in large intestine blockage. Diverticulitis is also one of the main causes of large bowel obstruction. Intestinal blockage symptoms may vary from person to person, depending upon his/her overall digestive health and the underlying cause of blockage.
The doctor may order certain tests to confirm the diagnosis of intestinal blockage. CT scan, abdominal X-ray, upper GI and small bowel series test, barium enema, etc., help detect the cause, nature and location of intestinal blockage. About 40% of patients have strangulated obstructions. They are considered as surgical emergencies. They need to undergo surgery within 36 hours. Statistics show that untreated strangulated obstructions result in death in 100% of patients. A surgery performed within 36 hours helps save the life of the patient.
If you notice the symptoms of impaired small intestine function, you should consult a physician immediately. The physician would determine the course of the treatment after checking the symptoms and test results. Sometimes, small bowel blockage leads to complications like hole/wound in the intestine, intra-abdominal abscess, sepsis, restricted/no blood supply to the intestine resulting in death of the tissue, etc. Thus, differentiating the nature and cause of small intestine obstruction is critical to proper patient treatment.
Both surgical and non surgical treatments help resolve the causes of small intestine blockage.
- Proper medication and diet control help improve the function of the small intestine.
- You may take prescribed pain relievers if you are experiencing severe pain.
- A partial blockage may clear on its own. Sometimes, adhesions loosen up naturally and the symptoms of obstruction disappear gradually.
- Non surgical treatment includes using liquids or air through enema, small mesh tubes called stents or medicines to open up the blockage. Hospitalization may be required.
- Surgical treatment involves placing a tube through the nose into the stomach or intestine. This procedure helps relieve abdominal distention and vomiting.
- If the tube does not relieve the symptoms, surgery may be needed to relieve the obstruction.
- Surgery may be needed in case of tissue death. If blood supply to the intestine is blocked due to the obstruction, the tissue may die, causing infection and gangrene. This can occur due to intestinal cancer, Crohn’s disease or hernia. The affected part of the small intestine is usually removed.
Prompt treatment for small bowel blockage is essential; because blocked intestine adversely affects the food intake and the health of the person. Laparoscopic surgeries are common these days, they involve almost no risk. Following a high fiber diet and drinking plenty of water help avoid the situation or prevent the situation from worsening.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.