Getting to Know the Pyloric Sphincter

The pyloric sphincter is a muscular ring located at the top of the small intestine (colon). Its purpose is to prevent food from passing through it. When there are no problems with digestion, the stomach empties into the large intestine and then out again. However, if there are any blockages or obstructions in this passage, food cannot pass freely through them. These may include:

An obstruction caused by a tumor, cyst, or other growth;

A blockage caused by cancerous cells;

An infection such as tuberculosis; or

Certain medications.

A pyloric sphincter is a muscle that lies between the rectum and the stomach. It acts like a gate keeping food from entering the intestines. If the muscles do not work properly, food will leak back out of the body.

What causes pyloric sphincter?

There are many possible reasons why the pyloric sphincter does not function normally. One reason could be due to a problem with your digestive system itself. For example, certain diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome can cause inflammation in this area causing pain when eating or even vomiting. Other diseases that can affect this area of the digestive tract include the following:



Inflammatory bowel disease; and

Anorectal disorders.

“Colon inertia” is a condition that prevents the muscles of the large intestine from pushing waste material through the colon. This may result in poor elimination of waste that gets trapped inside the body for long periods of time. This can cause toxic build up in the body.

Other causes of this condition may be due to non-medical factors such as diet, poor eating habits, or even changes in the type of food you eat.

What are the types of pyloric sphincter?

There are several different types of problems that may affect the muscles and nerves involved with the digestive tract. These are usually classified by the segment of the tract that is involved.

A “hiccup” is a common ailment in which the diaphragm spasms rapidly, causing closure of the glottis (the opening to the larynx). This closure causes the “hiccups”. The diaphragm is the main muscle involved in respiration (breathing). When it spasms, it pulls the larynx closed. The most common cause of hiccups is drinking carbonated beverages or eating rapidly.

Other causes can be stimulation of the throat, stress, emotional distress, eating, or drinking too quickly, or even medications. Hiccups are considered a medical emergency when they last longer than 72 hours.

The signs and symptoms of pyloric sphincter vary depending on the nature of the underlying cause. A medical history and physical examination can usually identify the problem. Special tests may be performed to rule out other conditions.

Your doctor will ask about your medical history, past operations you may have had, and any illnesses you may have had recently. You will also be asked about your family history because some diseases are genetic.

Other things your doctor may ask are:

Did you have a sore throat or had any trauma to this region?

Does anything cause the pain and/or discomfort such as changing posture, bending over, or laughing?

Does anything relieve the pain such as eating, lying down, or medication?

Your doctor will perform a physical examination on the region of the digestive system that is problematic. Your doctor will check your abdomen for any tenderness or abnormalities. Your rectum will be inspected both when empty and full. Your doctor may also do a rectal exam to check for any abnormalities.

Your doctor may ask you to perform certain actions, such as bending over or coughing to see if that makes the pain worse.

Other medical tests may be done to check for other conditions that may be causing your pain. These may include blood tests, x-rays, or other imaging tests.

If your doctor feels that there is enough cause for concern, he may recommend that you have a colonoscopy to take a look at your entire colon. This can usually determine if there are any abnormalities in the lining of your colon as well as any polyps or growths.

Your doctor may also order a barium enema. This involves the injection of a chalky liquid into your rectum. When the barium enema seeps through your intestines, X-rays can be taken to look for problems in that region.

The most common cause of pyloric sphincter is an overgrowth of bacteria in the stomach. This may be caused by an increase in acidity, which can be linked to excessive stress or anxiety. Other causes may be due to a connection with the small intestine, which may have been improperly sewn up during a previous surgery.

Other causes may result from an injury or trauma to the region of the sphincter. Certain prescription drugs may cause damage as well.

Treatment for this condition will be determined after a physical examination and a review of your medical history. This may involve any combination of the following:

If you experience pain that lasts more than a few days, is not relieved by antacids, or you develop a fever or chills consult your doctor immediately.

Sources & references used in this article:

The pyloric sphincter and duodenal ulcer by D Macaulay, R Walker – 2008 – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The influence of antral ulcers on intramural gastric nerve projections supplying the pyloric sphincter in the pig (Sus scrofa domestica)—neuronal tracing … by JB Deaver, VG Burden – Annals of surgery, 1931 –

… ulcerations on the expression of galanin and GalR1, GalR2, GalR3 receptors in the pylorus with regard to gastric intrinsic innervation of the pyloric sphincter by M Zalecki – PLoS One, 2015 –

The innervation of the sphincters and musculature of the stomach by M Zalecki, W Sienkiewicz, A Franke-Radowiecka… – Plos one, 2016 –