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What Causes Enteritis?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Enteritis refers to swelling and irritation of the small intestine. This part of the intestine connects the colon or large intestine to the stomach and is split into three sections, called the duodenum, jejunum and ileum. Irritation may occur in any or all of the sections and is most frequently caused by bacterial or viral illness. Long-term swelling that is not caused by infection is called chronic enteritis, and it may result from conditions affecting the intestinal tract, like Crohn's or celiac disease.

A medical professional may suspect enteritis when a patient experiences discomfort in the abdomen, diarrhea, and bloating of the abdomen due to excess gas. Occasionally, bowel movements are black, signifying internal bleeding. This fourth symptom, called hematochezia, may be misdiagnosed if the patient is taking medications that naturally dye the stools black for several days.

Surprisingly, this condition is not associated with nausea or vomiting. When stomach upset is present, along with the four main symptoms, the condition is referred to as gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis may have exactly the same causes but results in slightly different symptoms.

Most cases are caused by viral illnesses. These cases tend to also have symptoms like minor fever and are usually over within a few days. Viral illnesses tend to require rest and proper intake of fluids to restore a patient to health. Any illness that causes diarrhea needs to be treated by increasing the patient's intake of water and other fluids to prevent dehydration.

Bacteria responsible for enteritis usually enter the body through improperly prepared food. Common bacteria responsible for this condition are salmonella, listeria, and E. coli. When more than one person gets sick after eating the same food from the same source, bacteria is usually suspected. When symptoms last for longer than two days, the patients should see a healthcare professional, since E. coli and listeria can both result in serious complications. Treatment is usually antibiotics and careful checks to rule out complications.

Chronic enteritis may be caused by various conditions affecting the intestinal tract, and the treatment varies depending upon the cause. Some forms may result from exposure to parasites, for example, and extended cases of travelers' diarrhea and/or drinking water from streams are usually considered possible causes. These are diagnosed by evaluating stool samples and can only be cured by taking anti-parasitic medications.

Other causes of chronic intestinal irritation are conditions that may require complex treatments. Crohn's disease, for example, can affect the entire intestinal tract and may require surgeries to reduce inflammation. Celiac disease, on the other hand, is a persistent inability to digest gluten found in wheat flours. Usually, dietary modification can control this condition.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Gib — On Nov 26, 2014

My dad has being diagnosed with chronic enteritis. About seven months ago he had a terrible cramp and we took him to the doctor and he ended up cutting 30 cms of his intestine. At this point, he was complaining of so much pain and went to see many doctors, and got scans done. They said there were no tumors, no cancer signs or anything. The doctor said that his intestine got clogged and therefore, he had to cut the intestine.

The pain came back and they changed his diet once more with baby's food and ensure since they said they didn't want him to work his intestines for now until they find the problem. At the end, this is what they decided he has, but he can't have any normal food or life. The doctor said that his intestine gets swollen with anything he takes, drinks or eats, and as I said before, this is the conclusion he made, but I read your article and it doesn't really make much more sense since he never had diarrhea, vomiting or any of those symptoms.

By anon137707 — On Dec 28, 2010

sorry you don't mention post-cancer treatment which is how I developed mine - and landed in the hospital for almost a month, just when I expected to be celebrating "coming back" from cancer. Go figure.

By CellMania — On Jul 16, 2010

@dinoleash: Thanks for that information. I had always heard that taking too much ibuprofen could mess up your stomach, but I didn't know how.

By DinoLeash — On Jul 16, 2010

@anon44433: One of the causes of enteritis is eating or drinking something that is contaminated with a virus or bacteria. Those germs settle in the small intestine and causes inflammation that can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, dehydration, and fever.

Other causes of enteritis can be Crohn’s disease, damage from radiation therapy, and certain drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.

By anon44433 — On Sep 08, 2009

what causes the disease 'enteritis'?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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