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Health A-Z

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Harvard Medical School

Symptoms

Symptoms of small-bowel obstruction can include:

  • Cramping abdominal pain, generally coming in intense waves that strike at intervals of five to 15 minutes and sometimes center either on the navel or between the navel and rib cage (Pain that becomes constant may be a symptom of bowel strangulation)

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • No gas passing through the rectum

  • A bloated abdomen, sometimes with abdominal tenderness

  • Rapid pulse and rapid breathing during episodes of cramps

Symptoms of large-bowel obstruction can include:

  • A bloated abdomen

  • Abdominal pain, which can be either vague and mild, or sharp and severe, depending on the cause of the obstruction

  • Constipation at the time of obstruction, and possibly intermittent bouts of constipation for several months beforehand

  • If a colon tumor is the cause of the problem, a history of rectal bleeding (such as streaks of blood on the stool)

  • Diarrhea resulting from liquid stool leaking around a partial obstruction

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