Small Bowel Narrowing Symptoms


The small intestines can become blocked and grow narrow due to several different causes such as tumors, hernias and adhesions. Intestinal obstruction (or small bowel narrowing) can lead to serious complications, like the inability to have a bowel movement. Therefore, knowing all of the potential symptoms of this condition is important and can help you know whether to seek medical attention for this problem.

Small Intestines (Small Bowel)

  • Bile from the liver, along with enzymes from the pancreas, aids the small intestines with absorbing nutrients from foods that have been eaten. This includes nutrients like sodium, potassium and amino acids, which can have an impact on the water balance of our bodies.

    If the small intestine is unable to absorb these needed nutrients (and thus unable to aid in maintaining the water balance), the entire body system can shut down (go into shock) and cause kidney failure (a life-threatening condition), according to Colorado State College.

Symptoms of Narrowing

  • Individuals may experience some tenderness in the abdominal area or an intermittent pain in the abdomen when their small bowel (intestines) is beginning to narrow. The pain, like a cramp, may also be accompanied by swelling of the abdomen. However, not all symptoms are necessarily present at the same time.

    Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also be experienced. Fever is a symptom of this condition, too.

Serious Symptoms

  • When any or all of the symptoms mentioned earlier are accompanied by the inability to have a bowel movement or even pass gas---or when the symptoms of pain are so bad that the individual cannot handle it and it isn't subsiding---immediate medical attention should be sought, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Symptom Complications

  • According to the Mayo Clinic, narrowing of the small intestine and the subsequent prevention of food absorption as a result, can also lead to dehydration. The body must have water to function, so dehydration can cause the body to stop operating.

    Blood flow can also be hindered as the small bowel narrows, resulting in a lack of nourishment being sent to that part of the body. When any part of the body is not receiving nourishment for a prolonged period of time, the tissues and cells in that area die.


  • Once tissue death occurs, tears in the abdominal wall can occur, resulting in infection (peritonitis). Peritonitis is a serious and life-threatening condition that necessitates immediate medical attention. It can result in the need for immediate surgery, too, according to the Mayo Clinic.

    Symptoms of peritonitis are identical to small bowel narrowing, with the addition of the following: fluid buildup in the abdomen, minimal urine output and chills.


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