Symptoms Of Intestinal Pain: Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment

There are two types of intestine in human body; namely the small and large intestine. Both are part of alimentary canal. The small intestine is a long hollow muscular tube which helps in digestion and secretion of food. It begins from the lower end of stomach and continues into the large intestine. The length of small intestine is almost 22 feet. It is divided into three parts namely the duodenum, jejunum and ileum.

The food that we eat is broken down in duodenum while jejunum and ileum absorb the nutrients and pass them into the blood stream.

The small intestine has tiny finger like projections called villi which does all the function of absorption and assimilation.

The large intestine is comparatively smaller in length but much wider. It continues from the small intestine. Large intestine is divided into cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon and rectum. Its main function is to absorb water and flush out the undigested waste out of the body as feces. Any medical condition and diseases of intestine can give rise to pain.

Common Causes Of Pain In Intestines

There are numerous medical conditions that can cause intestinal pain.

Basically pain occurs due to inflammation and irritation in the intestine. Pain is often described as colicky. Pain is mostly accompanied with other symptoms. Here are some important intestinal conditions that may cause pain in the abdomen.

  • Appendicitis: It is the most common cause of acute pain in abdomen. Inflammation and infection in the appendix is the cause of pain. Appendix is a small finger like appendage situated as an extension of the cecum.
  • Infection: Bacterial and viral infection in the intestine can present as pain in the abdomen. The pain features of intestinal infection are diarrhea and vomiting. Bacterial infection such as typhoid and viral infection such as rotavirus can cause pain and inflammation in the intestine.
  • Parasitic infection: Hook worm, round worm infestation in intestine can cause intermittent pain.
  • Duodenitis: It is inflammation of the first part of small intestine called duodenum. H.pylori bacteria can damage the inner lining of duodenum. The stomach acid while passing through the intestine can further damage the corroded lining leading to ulcer formation.
  • Peptic ulcer disease: Duodenal ulcer is another most important cause for intestinal pain.
  • Mechanical obstruction: Obstruction of the hollow viscera resulting from intussusception, volvulus, and intestinal tumor can cause pain in abdomen.
  • Strangulated hernia: Intestinal hernia can get strangulated and twisted. It causes severe pain in abdomen.
  • Constipation: Many people suffer from constipation. Pain in left lower abdomen is often present in people who suffer from constipation.
  • Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease: Both are inflammatory bowel disease. It causes alternative constipation and diarrhea along with pain. The exact cause of IBS is not known but it is believed to be associated with abnormal spasm of intestinal muscles and abnormal sensitivity of the nerves that innervate intestine.
  • Intestinal tuberculosis: It is a bacterial infection of the intestine caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis. Frequent pain in abdomen along with other symptoms such as fever, weight loss and loss of appetite is classical presentation of intestinal tuberculosis.

Signs And Symptoms Of Intestinal Pain

Intestinal pain is itself a symptom of an underlying medical condition. It can occur due to derangement of the intestine. Intestinal pain is always accompanied with other notable symptoms of a particular condition.

Intestinal pain generally occurs in the middle and lower part of abdomen. It can be continuous or intermittent, mild or severe depending on the condition. Here are other accompanying symptoms along with intestinal pain:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain of constipation is temporarily relived after bowel movement.
  • Fever
  • Bleeding from anus.
  • Pain in abdomen with each bowel movement.
  • Bloating of abdomen.
  • Flatus
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Malabsorption syndrome
  • Anemia
  • Severe tenderness of abdomen.
  • Palpable mass
  • Pain becomes worse with sneezing, coughing or jarring.

Diagnosis And Treatment For Intestinal Pain

Intestinal pain occurs due to several underlying causes. Thus the main aim of treatment is to diagnose the cause and treat the condition. Medical examination, history, and tests that include blood and stool examination, ultrasound, X-ray of abdomen, CT and MRI scan, endoscopy and sigmoidoscopy all help to diagnose the underlying cause.

Once the diagnosis is certain, various treatment measures can be taken. For example in case of intestinal infection caused by bacteria, use of antibiotics is valuable to alleviate pain and other symptoms. A strangulated hernia may need to be surgically repaired.

Viral infection of intestine may not need any specific treatment. Only maintaining the fluids and supportive care will cure the condition within few days. More serious conditions such as appendicitis, intestinal obstruction need immediate medical attention.

Certain general measures and home remedies are useful to alleviate intestinal pain.

  • Eating less amount of food when pain is acute.
  • Drinking enough amount of water and other fluids such as juices and soups during diarrhea.
  • Eating simple BRAT (banana, rice, apple sauce, and toast) diet for one or two days during acute phase of diarrhea.
  • Quit smoking and alcohol.
  • Chamomile tea is beneficial to reduce spasms of intestine.