The world is seeing rising trends in gastrointestinal obstruction nowadays. Normally after you eat your food, it has to pass through the whole of your digestive system. Because of this process, the nutrients you need are absorbed through the gut and the remaining wastes are thrown out in the form of feces. However, in case of a gastrointestinal obstruction, there is either a partial or complete blockage of the small or the large intestine, causing a range of displeasing signs and symptoms.

Due to the blockage, the gastric contents will not be able to pass easily through the intestines and there will be an accumulation of food particles, gas, liquids and gastric acids. There is a build-up of pressure which can cause the intestines to rupture and the contents along with bacteria to escape into the abdominal cavity. The peritoneum, the covering of the abdomen, can become inflamed- leading to a possibly fatal condition. So, gastrointestinal obstruction can be quite dangerous, and it is best to learn more about this disease in order to acquire early diagnosis and treatment.

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What are the symptoms of gastrointestinal obstruction?

The symptoms of gastrointestinal obstruction widely depend upon the location of the obstruction and the time duration of the obstruction. Symptoms in adults include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting (an early sign of obstruction of the small intestine, can also occur due to an ongoing obstruction of the large intestine)
  • Bloating
  • Inability to pass gas or stool (in case of a complete obstruction)
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Abdominal cramps that usually come and go
  • Anorexia, loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea (in case of a partial obstruction)
  • Fever and acute abdominal pain usually occurs after rupture of the intestine leading to peritonitis.

In case of infants, pay attention to the following symptoms:

  • Loud crying
  • Vomiting (may be yellow-green due to the presence of bile)
  • Current jelly stool
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Grunting
  • Drawing knees up to his chest

What are the causes of intestinal obstruction?

The causes of intestinal obstruction can be broadly divided into two categories-

Mechanical obstruction (something physically blocks your intestine):

  1. Volvulus- twisting of the intestines
  2. Adhesions- fibrous bands that may form after severe inflammation of abdominal/pelvic surgery
  3. Tumors of the intestine
  4. Gall Stones
  5. Intussusception- telescoping or pushing in of one segment of the intestine into the other (mainly seen in children who are below the age of 2 years)
  6. Swallowed objects
  7. Inflammatory bowel disease
  8. Hernias

Although the above mainly occur in the small intestine, blockages can also occur in the large intestine, the causes of which include:

  1. Adhesions
  2. Cancer of the colon or the ovaries
  3. Volvulus, intussusception
  4. Diverticulitis
  5. Fecal impaction
  6. Stricture formation
  7. Meconium plugs(in case of newborns)

Non-mechanical obstruction (functional intestinal obstruction, occurs if anything interrupts the coordination of contractions in your intestines):

  1. Infections such as appendicitis or gastroenteritis
  2. Imbalance of electrolytes
  3. Surgeries of the pelvic or abdominal regions
  4. Drugs such as opioid medications for pain

How is gastrointestinal obstruction cured?

The best way to go about a case of intestinal obstruction is to go and see your doctor when you start noticing signs of intestinal obstruction such as severe constipation, anorexia or bloating. It is especially important to reach out for help fast if you have recently undergone any kind of abdominal surgery.

Treatments often differ according to the location and type of the obstruction. Cures include:

Intravenous Fluids and bowel resting- mainly done in cases of an ileus or partial bowel obstruction. You will be given IV fluids, but will not be allowed to eat anything for the time being.

A tube may be inserted into your intestines through your nose in order to relieve the pressure and swelling

Catheter- may be used to drain urine

Surgery will be opted for it the above measures do not alleviate the symptoms. Operations can be done in order to resect dead tissues from the intestine and rejoin the other segments of the intestine.

Symptomatic treatment is done with the use of medications such as- anti-emetics (to prevent vomiting), antibiotics (to help tackle any possible infections), analgesics (for pain relief)

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