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Intestinal Obstruction

A complete or partial blockage of the bowel thereby preventing intestinal content to move through is termed as intestinal obstruction. The bowel comprises the large intestine and the small intestine. When there is a block in either of them, the condition shows up. Intestinal content like fluids, food and gas do not pass through completely or partially due to this condition.


Intestinal obstruction is also known as paralytic ileus, bowel obstruction or colonic ileus. The blockage or obstruction may cause pain that is intermittent. If left untreated, intestinal obstruction may lead to death of those parts of the intestine that are blocked leading to further complications. However if treated on time, intestinal obstruction can be treated effectively.


What causes intestinal obstruction?

Common causes for intestinal obstruction:


  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease

  • Tumors in the small intestine

  • Intestinal adhesions, bands of fibrous tissue in the abdominal cavity that are formed after the pelvic or abdomen surgery.

  • Intussusception

  • Volvulus i.e. twisted intestine.

Mechanical causes for intestinal obstruction arise from


  • Hernia
  • Tumor, Colon cancer
  • Stricture, narrowing of the colon caused by inflammation or scarring.
  • Diverticulitis
  • Impacted stool, noticed in people who get constipated for long periods.
  • Post surgery scar tissues or adhesions.
  • Gallstones in a few cases
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease.

Paralytic ileus or pseudo-obstruction is a major cause of intestinal obstruction in children and infants. Conditions that cause paralytic ileus include:


  • Complications from an abdominal surgery or pelvic surgery.
  • Kidney or lung disease
  • Bacteria or virus that cause intestinal infections
  • Decreased blood supply to the intestine
  • Abdominal infections like appendicitis
  • Chemical, mineral or electrolyte imbalance
  • Substance abuse like use of narcotics
  • Muscle and nerve disorders like Parkinson's.

Symptoms include abdominal pain and cramping, distention and bloating. There is reduced appetite and vomiting. An obstruction in the intestines can lead to either constipation, diarrhea or flatulence. After physical examination, Xray or CT scan of the abdomen might be suggested as also . In some cases, an enema or stent is required to open up a partial blockage. Nasogastric tube (tube from nose to stomach) is passed so as to relieve abdominal swelling and vomiting. Volvulus of the large bowel may be treated by passing a tube into the rectum.


Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is an condition of inflammation or ulcers in the lining of the large intestine, rectum and colon. Rarely is the small intestine affected by ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is also referred to as proctitis. While this condition can affect anyone, it is noticed more often in the US, England, Eastern Europe and persons of Jewish ancestry. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition that is often noticed to run in families. The symptoms of Ulcerative colitis are similar to Crohn's disease. But this disease tends to affect the small intestine or the mouth, esophagus, appendix or duodenum. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are both inflammatory bowel diseases. Typical symptoms of Ulcerative colitis include fatigue, nausea and severe abdominal cramps. Rectal bleeding and diarrhea are noticed with persons suffering from Ulcerative colitis, though the intensity depends on the inflammation. There is loss of appetite and weight loss. The symptoms may tend to recur at regular intervals or when eating highly seasoned food or raw fruits and vegetables. Other conditions such as hepatitis, osteoporosis, anemia and arthritis are sometimes triggered by Ulcerative colitis.


Ulcerative colitis has been traced to abnormal disorder of the immune system of the intestine. Consequently the immune system triggers off an inflammation of the intestinal tissues. Often a diet high in fat and refined foods may be responsible for ulcerative colitis. Symptoms of ulcerative colitis tend to come in spurts, with periods of acute illness followed by periods of remission. If left untreated, persons suffering from ulcerative colitis carry significant risk of carcinoma. Treatment for ulcerative colitis is based on the seriousness of the condition. While medication can help in most cases, surgery is resorted to for severe inflammation and life-threatening condition. Medications cannot cure ulcerative colitis but they can help in maintaining periods of remission. The patient can enjoy a better quality of life. Anti-inflammatory and immunomodulators are prescribed for patients of ulcerative colitis to reduce inflammation.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is not contagious, inherited or cancerous. Neither does it mean that there is a problem with the structure of the intestine. If the muscle movement in the intestine is not normal or if there is a lower tolerance for stretching and movement of the intestine, the muscle contractions may become too hard. This affects the elimination of waste out of the body. At this stage, the individual suffers cramps in the abdomen area, abdomen bloat and constipation or may develop diarrhea.


Symptoms of IBS

Primary symptoms: Abdominal pain, abdominal swelling or bloating, bowel irregularities, constipation or diarrhea or alternative bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Almost all irritable bowel syndrome sufferers who seek medical help have these primary symptoms.

Secondary symptoms: Feeling full or loss of appetite, feeling of nausea, heartburn and indigestion. There are instances where IBS sufferers have bladder problems.

Mental symptoms: Anxiety, depression, emotional distress, irritability and tiredness.

Triggers for Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Individuals with a family history of IBS are susceptible.
  • Also those who have chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and temporomandibular disorder.
  • People with panic disorder or any other psychological condition. Due to emotional stress and anxiety the nerves of the bowels may be affected.
  • Certain medications like antibiotics, antidepressants, antacids and painkillers can lead to constipation or diarrhea.
  • Food or substances can trigger spasms in people. For example, milk products consumed by lactose-intolerant people, fatty foods, carbonated drinks, corn and wheat can make digestion difficult leading to constipation.
  • Gastrointestinal infection will result in frequent bowel symptoms even days or months after the infection has been treated.

Tackling Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Avoid foods high in fat.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables suitable for your digestion.
  • Eat well before bedtime.
  • Drink 6-8 classes of water. Helps digestive system to work better.
  • Change from 3 larger meals to 6 small meals a day.
  • Learn to eat slowly. Chew food well before swallowing.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages. Causes gas and discomfort.
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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: August 20, 2019