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Enteritis is the inflammation of your small intestine. In some cases, the inflammation can also involve the stomach (gastritis) and large intestine (colitis). There are various types of enteritis. The most common are:
Symptoms of enteritis can include fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Viral enteritis usually clears up without treatment in a few days. However, if you have symptoms of enteritis for more than three or four days, or you suspect that you have bacterial enteritis, seek medical attention.
Symptoms of enteritis can start anywhere from a few hours to a few days after infection. Symptoms may include:
There are several different types of enteritis:
The most common type of bacterial enteritis is caused by food poisoning. You can get it after ingesting food or water that is contaminated with bacteria. The bacteria can enter the food supply in a number of ways, including:
The foods most often associated with food poisoning are:
Some common bacteria that cause enteritis include:
You can also get enteritis when you come into close contact with other people or animals that are infected. This is less common.
This type of enteritis can occur after radiation therapy. Radiation works by killing rapidly dividing cells. This kills cancer cells, but also healthy cells. This includes mouth, stomach, and bowel cells.
Radiation enteritis develops when your normal, healthy intestinal cells are damaged by radiation and become inflamed. This condition usually goes away several weeks after you finish your treatment. However, symptoms can sometimes be chronic and last for months or years after you have finished your treatment. Researchers aren’t sure why this happens.
Enteritis can also be the result of:
If symptoms are severe or, in the case of radiation enteritis, become chronic, you are at increased risk of dehydration. Infants and young children are especially vulnerable to dehydration. This is a serious health risk. You should seek help if you’re showing signs of dehydration due to loss of fluids through sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms of dehydration include:
Seek medical attention if:
You should also seek help if you have symptoms of dehydration, which include:
If you have enteritis, your doctor will perform a physical examination. They may order blood tests or stool cultures to identify the cause of your illness.
Mild cases of enteritis generally clear up within a few days. They don’t require medical treatment. People with diarrhea must replenish their fluids.
If you can’t get enough fluids, your doctor may recommend rehydration with electrolyte solutions. These solutions are made up of primarily water and the essential electrolytes: sodium (salt) and potassium. In severe cases, intravenous fluids, medications, or hospitalization may be necessary.
If you have radiation enteritis, you may need changes to your radiation therapy. You may even need to stop radiation entirely. In some cases, it may be necessary to have surgery performed to cut out the part of the bowel that has been damaged.
For most people, symptoms go away within a few days. Recovery can take two to three weeks in more severe cases depending on the cause.
A full recovery may take as long as six to 18 months after radiation is completed in people with radiation enteritis.
Practicing good personal hygiene and safe food handling can help lower your chances of developing infectious enteritis.
Written by: Ann Pietrangelo
Medically reviewed on: Mar 05, 2016: Graham Rogers, MD
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