Symptoms of a Partial Bowel Blockage

A partial bowel blockage, also called a partial bowel obstruction, is a condition in which your intestines are partially blocked. This blockage can stop or slow the passage of fecal material through your bowels. If you have a pre-existing condition such as an abdominal surgery, cancer, diverticulitis, adhesions or use large daily quantities of narcotics, you could be a candidate for a partial bowel blockage, Journal says. Progression to a complete bowel obstruction could be life threatening. Knowing signs and symptoms of a partial bowel blockage allows you to identify the problem before it reaches that severity.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Abdominal Signs

Abdominal pain is a vague symptom of many medical problems, including a partial bowel blockage. When the bowel is partially blocked, intestinal contents start to back up. This can cause pain and abdominal cramping, as well as distention and bloating, the National Institutes of Health says. Distention is an uncomfortable swelling in your abdomen, which you may notice because your clothes feel tighter. A rigid or firm abdomen in the absence of musculature is a late sign of blockage and requires immediate medical attention.

Nausea and Vomiting

Appetite decreases when food isn't moving properly through your intestines. You may feel full after eating a very small amount, and can become nauseated easily with intake. Even when you don't eat foods that cause high gas production, such as raw vegetables, you may pass large amounts of flatus, the National Institutes of Health says. The materials that are partially blocking your intestines produce a large amount of gas as a byproduct of sitting there, undigested, which can elicit nausea. Vomiting is a poor sign with bowel obstructions, and may indicate that your partial obstruction is getting worse. When the food you eat can't pass the partial bowel obstruction, it can back up through your digestive tract. Vomiting with partial bowel obstructions is largely dependent upon the location of the blockage, the severity, and your food intake.

Constipation and Diarrhea

Prolonged constipation and diarrhea are signs of a partial bowel obstruction. Constipation occurs when the substances can't pass the blockage and continue to progress through your intestines. However, with a partial blockage, some food substances make the trip, in the form of small amounts of pure liquid stool. It's possible to be constipated and have diarrhea, if you define diarrhea as having liquid stool. These small liquid stools continue indefinitely until the partial blockage is resolved, and the entire contents can again pass through your intestines uninhibited.