Enteritis is the inflammation of the small intestine (inflammation of the large intestine is termed colitis).
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, abdominal distension and hematochezia.
If there is vomiting, gastroenteritis is the more correct diagnosis.
Generally a good history is the most important tool in distinguishing serious cases of enteritis from self-limiting ones. The presence of blood in the faeces, dehydration, cutaneous eruptions, presumed link with food exposure, as well as recent travel to endemic areas can prompt further investigation.
Acute enteritis is usually due to bacteria or viruses. When food is involved, foodborne illness is to be suspected. If other family members or members of the household are affected, this may signify infectious causes.
Chronic enteritis can be due to Crohn's disease, giardiasis, tuberculosis, celiac disease, or rarely due to Whipple's disease.
Viral diarrhea is usually self-limiting and is treated with rehydration. When bacterial causes are suspected (recent travel, food poisoning), antibiotics can be considered.
Chronic enteritides are treated according to the diagnosis (please refer to individual articles).