How Do I Know if I Have a Bowel Obstruction?
What Is a Bowel Obstruction?
A bowel obstruction is a partial or complete blockage of the small or large intestine that prevents the contents of the intestine from passing through. The causes of bowel obstructions vary. It can be anything from impacted stool to tumors, with many other causes in between.
There are certain physical conditions that can cause a person to be more prone to bowel obstructions, like Crohn's Disease and other Inflammatory bowel diseases.
Signs and Symptoms of an Obstructed Bowel
- Stomach ache/pain/cramps
- Inability to expel uncomfortable gas
- Tenderness in the stomach
How Is an Obstructed Bowel Diagnosed?
Knowing the cause of your obstructed bowels makes a big difference in your treatment. The doctor will first go by the symptoms you are displaying and describing. If you have been constipated, nauseous, gassy (but unable to expel it) and in pain, the doctor will probably test further.
There are several tests that can determine if you have an obstruction. X-rays of the stomach and intestines can be done, as well as a Computerized Tomography (CT) scan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). If you are in an emergency situation, a CT scan is usually done immediately. If you are being treated at home, your doctor will probably recommend a Gastro Intestinal (GI) series of x-rays.
A pseudo-obstruction (also called paralytic ileus) is when there is no physical or mechanical obstruction in the bowel. It simply slows down or stops the intestine from moving, therefore, having the same results as a blocked intestine.
What Causes an Obstructed Bowel?
There are several things that can cause an obstructed bowel. They include:
- Adhesions (scar tissue)
- Impacted stool
- Swallowing an object that blocks the intestine
- Twisting of the intestine
- Complications of Crohn's Disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS)
Have you ever had an obstructed or pseudo-obstructed bowel?
What You Can Do at Home for a Bowel Obstruction
If you think you may have a bowel obstruction, there are a few things you can do at home before going to the hospital. Sometimes, they will resolve themselves at home and you won't need to go to the hospital at all. I want to emphasize here that if you are in extreme pain and are vomiting or dehydrated, go to the emergency room or call your doctor immediately. This article is only meant to tell you what signs to look for and how to cope with them. If you have an obstruction, you need medical help.
- It is very important to stay hydrated. If you are not vomiting, drink plenty of water.
- Keep moving. If you walk around and stay somewhat active, you will aid the movement in the intestine. You will also experience less pain.
- Don't eat. If your bowel is obstructed, it can't accept any more solids. Don't eat.
- Monitor yourself. If the pains/symptoms become more frequent or stronger, seek medical help.
- If this is a chronic problem for you, do what normally works in this situation but be in contact with your doctor.
- An obstructed bowel can be extremely serious. If you suspect that you are suffering from one, please contact a doctor right away.
In-Hospital Treatment for Obstructed Bowels
Many, but not all bowel obstructions result in surgery. The doctors will try other methods first. Once a bowel obstruction is confirmed, a nasal gastric tube will be inserted through your nose.This will take out excess gas from your stomach and intestines. You will also be given fluids intravenously. You may remain like this for several days, allowing the intestines to rest. In many cases, this will be enough. In the instances that this doesn't correct the situation, surgery will be performed to remove the obstruction and resectioning the surrounding healthy area.
While I have done fairly extensive research in this area, it was not purely rhetorical. As a long-time sufferer of Crohn's Disease, I have, unfortunately, had quite a bit of experience with blockages. I was first diagnosed in 1974. By the time my eighteenth birthday rolled around in 1977, I had a good portion of both my small and large intestine removed. It bought me some time, but by the time I was twenty-five, just about all that I had left was removed, including my rectum. A bag was attached to the outside of my stomach for me to pass waste through. This is called an Ileostomy.
I did not experience my first blockage until 2009. In my case, scar tissue and adhesions are the most likely cause, as well as the simple fact that my intestines are considerably more delicate and have had to work harder than the typical intestine. I have been hospitalized numerous times in the past seven years to treat obstructions, including one surgical repair.
How I Have Learned to Control Bowel Obstructions
The surgery was only successful in treating the immediate danger and has left me a bit more compromised than I was before. The blockages came more frequently, leaving me weak, tired and susceptible to any germ in my vicinity. My diet became horrible because the only foods that didn't hurt my intestinal function were incredibly unhealthy. They mostly included pastas, sweets, breads, puddings and the list goes on. I gained weight, was tired all the time, couldn't concentrate and didn't feel very well. With the help of several doctors and a great nutritionist, I took the bull by the horn. We are now controlling my condition mostly through diet. It has been a little bit of trial and error—but for the most part, I am greatly improved.
© 2013 Randi Benlulu