What is blind loop syndrome?
Your digestive system breaks down the food you eat. Then your body can use it for fuel. Food you eat moves from your stomach into your small intestine. There, nutrients are absorbed. The waste is pushed into the colon and leaves the body as poop (stool). Blind loop syndrome is caused when a part of the small intestine slows down. Then it doesn’t digest food normally.
Blind loop syndrome is also called:
Stagnant loop syndrome
Bowel bypass syndrome
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
What causes blind loop syndrome?
The intestine has a system of movements. These move food, secretions, and bacteria through the tube. After some kinds of surgery or for other reasons, a loop of bowel has less movement or stops. Bacteria then overgrow in that area. This can cause symptoms. Nutrients from your food may not be absorbed well.
Blind loop syndrome may be caused by any of these:
Obesity (bariatric) surgery that shortens and bypasses part of the bowel
Small intestine diverticulosis
Surgery for peptic ulcer disease
Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease and colitis
Medicines that slow the intestines
Conditions that slow the intestines, such as diabetes and scleroderma.
What are the symptoms of blind loop syndrome?
Symptoms often include:
Weight loss due to trouble absorbing nutrients
Bulging belly (abdomen)
Poor absorption of nutrients can cause symptoms such as:
Nausea or vomiting
Belly (abdominal) swelling from fluid buildup
Swelling of the legs
Belly pain and cramping
Poop that is loose and fatty
Tiredness or weakness
Gas and bloating
Low levels of some vitamins
In rare cases, severe overgrowth of bacteria can inflame your intestinal lining. Also in rare cases, the bacteria can get into the blood. This infection can cause:
Joint pain that feels like arthritis
Skin rash or red bumps on the skin
Muscle pain or aches
How is blind loop syndrome diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your:
History of surgery
Family health history
You may have tests such as:
Blood tests to check for infections and nutrient levels
Breath tests to look for bacterial overgrowth
Tests to check organ function
Test to check for inflammation in the body
Exam of poop for fecal fat, bacteria, parasites, or white blood cells
Imaging tests to look at the shape of your intestines
Colonoscopy or upper endoscopy to look at the intestinal lining
How is blind loop syndrome treated?
It’s most often treated with antibiotics. A short course of corticosteroids can reduce inflammation. They may also help control symptoms.
Some people need surgery to remove the affected area. If obesity surgery caused blind loop syndrome, your surgeon may do another surgery to fix the problem.
What are possible complications of blind loop syndrome?
Blind loop syndrome can cause a lack of vitamins and minerals. This includes Vitamin B12 and iron. If not treated, blind loop syndrome may lead to serious health problems due to poor nutrition.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Call your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of blind loop syndrome.
Blind loop syndrome occurs when part of your small intestine doesn’t move normally. It then causes bacteria to overgrow in the intestines.
It can be caused by abdominal surgery, some diseases, and some medicines.
Symptoms include weight loss, gas, and bloating.
Other symptoms can include fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and belly pain.
It’s usually treated with antibiotics. Some people may need surgery.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
Know how you can contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.