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volvulusVolvulus is a term used to describe a situation where a loop somewhere in the intestines gets twisted in an abnormal way and obstructs the supply of lumen and blood to that section of the intestines.

There are five different classifications of Volvulus based on the section of the intestines that is affected; when it affects the stomach it is called Gastric Volvulus, in the small intestine it is called Intestinal Volvulus, at the entrance of the large intestine (colon) it is called Cecal Volvulus, across the middle section of the colon it is Transverse Volvulus and at the end of the colon it is called Sigmoid Volvulus.

Gastric Volvulus can be caused by several different reasons including diaphragm defects, hiatus hernia, weak muscles, stomach tumors or other similar stomach problems.

Intestinal Volvulus is sometimes caused by web-like material getting stuck to the walls of the intestine post-surgery and resulting in tangles; one theory suggests that there is a connection between Intestinal Volvulus and high residue diets. Intestinal Volvulus is also associated with by-pass surgery, chronic constipation, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and even pregnancy.

Cecal, Transverse and Sigmoid Volvulus are generally caused by constipation or other such problems that lead to overstretching of the large intestines. When the intestines are overstretched it can easily twist around itself leading to Volvulus in the various sections.

Symptoms of the various types of Volvulus include sudden or gradual abdominal pains, vomiting, bloody stool, abdominal distention and tenderness and constipation. Although Volvulus can affect persons of any age, infants less than 1 year old and middle-aged to elderly men are the ones most affected by it.

Volvulus results in injury to the walls of the intestines and an accumulation of gas and fluids in the affected portion of the intestines; if untreated Volvulus can result in increased acidity of the blood plasma, the premature death of cells and tissue and ultimately, death.

Untwisting is the first remedy that is attempted with Volvulus; however there are cases where a surgical procedure is the only way to access the affected area and relieve the obstruction by untwisting the affected area and draining the fluid, or by removing the section completely.

Particularly in the case of Intestinal Volvulus, the only remedy is surgery as Intestinal Volvulus often keeps reoccurring even if it is untwisted. The affected section of the small intestine will have to be removed and sometimes the problem may be so severe that the entire length of the small intestines are removed and the patient has to be fed through tubes for the rest of his/her life.

Preventing Volvulus is possible when you know the things that contribute to it; taking steps to prevent chronic constipation is the first safeguard as constipation plays a major role in Volvulus; a high-fiber diet can also contribute to stretching of the colon and should be monitored closely. Low potassium levels for extended periods of time and the excessive use of laxatives are other contributing factors that you can control.

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