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Enteritis

Definition

Enteritis is inflammation of the small intestine.

Causes

Enteritis is most often caused by eating or drinking things that are contaminated with bacteria or viruses. The germs settle in the small intestine and cause inflammation and swelling.

Enteritis may also be caused by:

  • An autoimmune condition such as Crohn's disease
  • Certain drugs, including ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and cocaine
  • Damage from radiation therapy
  • Celiac disease

The inflammation can also involve the stomach (gastritis) and large intestine (colitis).

Risk factors include:

  • Recent stomach flu among household members
  • Recent travel
  • Exposure to unclean water

Types of enteritis include:

Symptoms

The symptoms may begin hours to days after you become infected. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea - acute and severe
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting

Exams and Tests

Tests may include:

  • A stool culture to look for the type of infection. However, this test may not always identify the bacteria causing the illness.
  • A colonoscopy and/or upper endoscopy to look at the small intestine and to take tissue samples if needed
  • X-rays such as CT scan and MRI

Treatment

Mild cases often do not need treatment.

Antidiarrheal medicine is sometimes used. However, it may not be recommended in some cases because it can slow the germ from leaving the digestive tract.

You may need rehydration with electrolyte solutions if your body does not have enough fluids.

You may need medical care and fluids through a vein (intravenous fluids) if you have diarrhea and cannot keep fluids down. This is often the case with young children.

If you take diuretics and develop diarrhea, you may need to stop taking the diuretic. However, do not stop taking any medicine without first talking to your health care provider.

You may need to take antibiotics.

People who have Crohn's disease will often need to take anti-inflammatory medicines.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Symptoms most often go away without treatment in a few days in otherwise healthy people.

Possible Complications


  • Dehydration
  • Long-term diarrhea

Note: In babies, the diarrhea can cause severe dehydration that comes on very quickly.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • You become dehydrated
  • Diarrhea does not go away in 3 to 4 days
  • You have a fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • You have blood in your stool

Prevention


  • Always wash your hands after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food or drinks. You may also clean your hands with a 60% alcohol-based product.
  • Boil water that comes from unknown sources, such as streams and outdoor wells, before drinking it.
  • Use only clean utensils for eating or handling foods, especially when handling eggs and poultry.
  • Cook food thoroughly.
  • Use coolers to store food that needs to stay chilled.

References

DuPont HL. Approach to the patient with suspected enteric infection. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 291.

Semrad CE. Approach to the patient with diarrhea and malabsorption. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 142.

Giannella Ra. Infectious enteritis and proctocolitis and bacterial food poisoning. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 107.

Review Date:5/15/2014
Reviewed By:Jenifer K. Lehrer, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Frankford-Torresdale Hospital, Aria Health System, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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