If the bowel becomes blocked, it can begin to die. This is a medical emergency. An impacted bowel can be the result of constipation, using laxatives too often, medications, activity level, and bathroom habits. Having an impacted bowel means a solid mass has developed in the colon, and the patient cannot push it out.
Impacted bowel treatments need to be monitored by a doctor. Using oral laxatives for an impacted bowel may simply make things worse for patients. In severe cases, impacted bowel surgery is required. Sometimes, if individuals catch the condition early, they can have an enema to soften the stool. This can cure an impacted bowel in some cases. However, the impacted bowel must be diagnosed first.
Abdominal Bloating And Pain
One of the clearest indicators of an impacted bowel is abdominal bloating and pain. Abdominal pain can be very uncomfortable and cause significant distress. Individuals might think they just have a stomach ache. However, if the pain does not go away or gets worse, it could mean they have an impacted bowel. The abdomen can fill with gas or air, causing pressure. This triggers pain as it expands the abdomen, resulting in distension. A distended abdomen can feel hard, tight, swollen, or tender when touched. Furthermore, abdominal pain can cause nausea or vomiting. It is essential to seek medical attention when this symptom appears, particularly when it becomes persistent.
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Unexplained Weight Loss
Unexplained weight loss due to an impacted bowel is because the affected individual cannot eat properly. Pain from a distended abdomen can reduce an individual's desire to eat. Additionally, because they are not absorbing enough nutrients, it can cause weight loss. If patients cannot eat the foods needed to fuel their bodies, they cannot maintain their weight. Various conditions will result in unexplained weight loss, aside from an impacted bowel, like cancer. Therefore, patients need to make sure they get checked out for other illnesses or diseases. Diagnosing an impacted bowel is sometimes as easy as getting an x-ray. The test can show if there is a mass in the colon and the doctors can determine, based on all symptoms, the best course of action to correct the blockage.
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Liquid Stool Leakage
Liquid stool leakage might mean the only stool that can get past the blockage is liquid. If patients have this happen, especially alongside other symptoms, they should seek medical attention. This leakage can be involuntary or happen with the passage of gas. It can be an indication of an impacted bowel if individuals are not getting full bowel movements and only some diarrhea. It is important to realize that just because patients have stool leakage does not mean there is no impacted bowel. Actually, the opposite is true. If patients cannot pass normal stools, there is a problem. As with other illnesses, if patients have this symptom along with others, they need to let a doctor know so they can do tests. Ignoring this symptom can lead to a dire situation, perhaps resulting in surgery.
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Loss Of Appetite
When dealing with an impacted bowel, the body will not want more food because it cannot process and evacuate what is in the colon. A loss of appetite can also occur because of the pain and discomfort of a swollen and painful abdomen. If patients are in pain, they might not be hungry. Furthermore, if individuals continue to eat, they may make the impacted bowel worse, and more of the bowel will suffer from not getting the right kind of blood flow. If this happens, and surgery is needed, the doctor may need to remove more bowel than if a patient had the situation taken care of earlier. Getting the right diagnosis as soon as possible improves the patient's chances of a full recovery and eliminate pain and discomfort.
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The pressure created by the impacted bowel can cause intense discomfort and press on the lungs and diaphragm. This can cause distress, and patients may feel like they cannot breathe. Individuals may feel as if they cannot breathe, which results in significant anxiety and hyperventilation. This causes the levels of carbon dioxide to be too low, making individuals feel sick. Patients may not even realize they are hyperventilating until it is too late. The perceived inability to breathe because of the increased pressure in the abdomen can be scary, especially if individuals do not know why it is happening. Patients need to mention any episodes to the doctor, so they can evaluate this symptom with any other symptoms they might be experiencing.
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Nausea And Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting may occur for some patients who have an impacted bowel. The patient could become unable to keep food or liquids down, which may lead to weakness. Since nausea and vomiting may be severe, patients who have experienced them for more than twenty-four hours should consult their doctor. This is especially the case if they have not had a bowel movement for two or more days. If the patient cannot get an appointment with their primary doctor, they should go to the emergency room. Doctors will examine the patient to determine the cause of their nausea and vomiting. In some cases, they can prescribe medications to ease these symptoms. Vomiting and nausea usually resolve for most patients once the impacted bowel has been successfully treated.
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Dehydration could occur with a particularly advanced case of an impacted bowel. Insufficient hydration generally worsens the degree of a patient's constipation too. Early signs of dehydration include headaches, muscle cramps, dark urine, and feeling thirsty or having a dry mouth. Individuals may also notice that they have decreased urine output. As patients become moderately to severely dehydrated, they could develop a fever, and the heartbeat may be very rapid. Their breathing might become shallow and rapid as well, and they could feel irritable or drowsy. Patients who are moderately to severely dehydrated should seek immediate medical attention, particularly if they believe they may also have an impacted bowel or are constipated. Doctors may need to administer intravenous fluids to treat this condition, depending on the patient's dehydration level.
To reduce the risk of dehydration and fecal impaction, patients should follow their physician's instructions on appropriate daily fluid intake for their health needs. Most major health organizations recommend that healthy individuals drink roughly two liters of water each day. Patients with certain health conditions may need more or less than this amount. To estimate hydration levels, patients can check the color of their urine. Pale yellow urine generally indicates that the patient is well-hydrated, and dark yellow urine usually means the patient needs to drink more water.
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Patients who have severe bowel impactions could develop urinary or fecal incontinence. Some patients might experience both of these. When fecal incontinence occurs due to an impacted bowel, it is sometimes referred to as overflow diarrhea or incontinence. As the individual's stool becomes harder and more difficult to pass, loose stool behind the area of the impaction could begin to leak. Patients who exhibit signs of any type of incontinence should have a physical examination with their healthcare provider. The doctor will ask questions about the type of incontinence they are experiencing. They will also want to know if the leakage occurs during particular activities.
To find out more about this symptom, doctors may need to perform x-rays or other imaging studies, and patients might wish to use products that can absorb leaks. If the incontinence is a direct result of the impaction, it will generally go away once the impaction has been removed. Doctors will provide individualized advice about how to prevent future incontinence and impactions to each patient. Patients who have had incontinence may need to have follow-up appointments as part of the recovery process.
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In rare cases, fecal impaction could cause a fever. This may occur in conjunction with general malaise and severe abdominal pain. Patients who believe they may have a fever should check their temperature at least once an hour. They may wish to keep a journal of their temperature readings to share with their doctor. If the fever is 102 degrees Fahrenheit or above, individuals should go to the emergency room. Immediate care is also necessary for patients who have fevers of less than 102 degrees Fahrenheit that continue for four days or more. Patients may consider taking an over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen to reduce their fever. However, individuals should consult with their doctor before taking these, as they may not be appropriate if a bowel impaction is confirmed. Placing a cool cloth on the forehead could be soothing as the patient recovers from a fever.
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Rapid Heart Rate
A rapid heart rate commonly develops with advanced fecal impactions. Doctors define a rapid heartbeat as one that is higher than one hundred beats per minute. Patients with a rapid heart rate may feel dizzy. They could also experience chest pain and heart palpitations. Individuals with a rapid heartbeat should note the time this symptom begins and seek emergency medical attention if their heart rate is 160 or higher. They should also get emergency attention if they have a heart rate between one hundred and 150 accompanied by pain, feeling faint, or shortness of breath.
To assess the heart rate, doctors will perform an electrocardiogram. Patients may also need to have an echocardiogram or other cardiac imaging studies. Usually, patients who have an elevated heart rate as a result of an impacted bowel see their heart rate return to normal after the impaction is treated. In some cases, individuals may need to have a follow-up appointment with a cardiologist for more detailed investigations.