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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Symptoms

In most people, abdominal adhesions do not cause any symptoms. Adhesions that partially block the intestine from time to time can cause intermittent bouts of crampy abdominal pain.

More significant intestinal obstruction can cause the following symptoms:

  • Severe, crampy abdominal pain

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Swelling of the abdomen (abdominal distension)

  • Inability to pass gas and absent or infrequent bowel movements

  • Signs of dehydration, including dry skin, dry mouth and tongue, severe thirst, infrequent urination, fast heart rate and low blood pressure

If the bowel becomes strangulated, people typically develop severe abdominal pain, which can be either crampy or constant. The abdomen is distended and tender when touched even lightly. People with a strangulated bowel usually also develop signs of systemic (body-wide) illness, such as fever, fast heart rate and low blood pressure.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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