Digestive system

Enterocolitis: 4 Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and 10 Treatments

Enteritis is the inflammation of small intestine while colitis is the inflammation is the inflammation of the colon.  The Inflammation of both small intestine and colon is known as Enterocolitis.

Causes of enterocolitis:

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The causes of the disease vary depending upon the type of enterocolitis. Various types of Enterocolitis have different symptoms and the related cause.

Necrotizing Enterocolitis:

This is the inflammation associated with the death of tissue in the lining of the intestine. This type of enterocolitis is more common in the babies who are born prematurely or when infants become ill.

The exact causes of this is not known; however, it is believed that the immune system is not fully developed in case of babies and infants; as a result, there are higher chances of developing an infection in them. The excess bacteria in the intestine in them lead to tissue death.

Some also believe that overfeeding the babies also result in bacterial overload which the babies are not ready for.

Antibiotic-associated enterocolitis:

When a person takes antibiotic against bacteria, apart from the infectious bacteria, most of the bacteria present in the intestine are also killed. As a result, there is a perfect environment left for Clostridia difficile to spread infection.

The bacteria attack the inner lining of the intestine and also release harmful toxins. These toxins cause inflammation to the inner lining of the intestine. Antibiotic-associated enterocolitis if left untreated can also develop into other types of enterocolitis called as Pseudomembranous enterocolitis.

Pseudomembranous colitis:

This causes inflammation of the bowel apart from the inflammation of the intestine. This is accompanied by symptoms like watery diarrhea, fever, and cramping. In most of the cases, this is an aftereffect of antibiotic-associated enterocolitis; however, in some rare cases, it can occur without having any relation with antibiotic enterocolitis.

This is accompanied by a collection of White blood cells, mucus and the release of proteins. These can also be seen along with the bowel movement.

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Hemorrhagic enterocolitis:

This is another type of enterocolitis which is caused by bacterial infection mainly Escheria Coli bacterium which infects the intestine and releases some toxins. This type of enterocolitis is very harmful and risky.

If the bacteria get enter the bloodstream, it can lead to infection and damage to the nearby organs as well. In several cases, people suffering from this type of enterocolitis develop hemolytic uremic syndrome which might also lead to kidney failure, nerve damage or a stroke.

Thus, the significant causes of enterocolitis are an underdeveloped digestive system which makes people prone to infection. This is the major reason of enterocolitis in babies and kids.

Intestinal inflammation is seen more often in people with an underdeveloped immune system which could be the result of intake of certain drugs in the body. The drugs also include a prolonged course of antibiotics.

Intestinal inflammation can also result from unhygienic conditions which could because of consuming contaminated food and water, travelling to places where there is a spread of enterocolitis, poor sanitation etc.

It can also result due to consumption of certain medications such as chloramphenicol, toxins or some ingestion of certain chemicals. These can result in an imbalance of the natural flora of the gut. Allergic reactions to specific food or food ingredients can also result in inflammation and stomach upset.

In some instances, exposure to radiation therapy or some rays during some diagnostic tests is also found the cause of enterocolitis. These can also be resulted because of the consumption of some herbal supplements.

Symptoms of Enterocolitis:

There are various general and specific symptoms of enterocolitis which includes:
  • Fever
  • Swelling/inflammation near the stomach
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Tiredness
  • There could also be particular symptoms associated with them.
Necrotizing enterocolitis is associated with:
  • Swollen/ coloured abdomen
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in the stool etc.
Antibiotic-associated enterocolitis is associated with following symptoms:
  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Stomach pain etc.
Pseudomembranous enterocolitis includes symptoms like:
  • Diarrhoea accompanied by a foul smell
  • Fever
  • Cramps
Hemorrhagic enterocolitis is associated with:
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever etc.

Diagnosis of enterocolitis involves:

A person suffering from intestinal inflammation needs the diagnosis to start with the right treatment course. The diagnostic steps include:

Medical history and physical examination:

Initially, doctor will ask questions related to any history of the infection or the related infection.

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Blood tests:

The doctor will also ask for the complete blood tests and the blood culture test to check for the infection and the type of organism causing the infection.

Stool test:

The doctor will also order stool test. The stool sample of the patient will help to check if there are any signs of Pseudomembranous enterocolitis or will help rule out any other more harmful infections.

Urine test:

Urine test is also conducted to check for the causative organs of the infection.

CT and MRI Scans:

In some cases, the doctor will also ask for MRI or CT scan. These tests will help to validate enterocolitis further and will also help to check for the location of the infection by checking for the inflammation. This will also help to check the causative agents of the infection.


Ultrasound of the intestine helps to check if the inner lining of the intestine is swollen or their fluid accumulation of the inner lining of the intestine.

Treatment of enterocolitis:

The treatment of intestinal inflammation is based on the diagnosis of the type of infection and the causative organism for the infection. It is also vital the for the progression stage if the infection. i.e. the level to which the infection has progressed. These all diagnosis steps will help decide the treatment of the disease.

  • In many cases, the hospital stay is required for proper monitoring and treatment of the disease.
  • Many people who are losing too much fluid because of diarrhoea are given fluids through intravenous route to replenish the lost nutrients.
  • The doctor will also conduct nasogastric suction and the bowel rest.
  • In some cases, a broad-spectrum antibiotic like Metronidazole is prescribed, however, the antibiotic treatment is done depending on the specific case of the patient. As the patient may already have taken multiple courses of antibiotic. The doctor in case believes that further course of antibiotic is required, he may, in that case, give a combination of antibiotics like imipenem and amikacin or cefepime and metronidazole or vancomycin.
  • Antibiotics are administered to control any infection which can result in sepsis of the small intestine or the colon area.
  • Some people who are having loss of blood in the stools may also be given blood or platelet transfusion.
  • People who are having repeated episodes of intestinal inflammation. In such cases, the doctor may do faecal microbial transplantation in which the doctor would replace the infected gut microorganisms of the person with live bacteria from a healthy person.
  • Antidiarrheal drug treatment is strictly avoided as this result in worsening of the situation.
  • Antibiotics are also rarely prescribed in case of enterocolitis as it worsens the condition. Especially in case of hemorrhagic enterocolitis or enterocolitis which is caused by antibiotics. Doctors may only prescribe antibiotics in a rare case to prevent sepsis.
  • Surgery: In some people where the infection caused to the intestine is very high that it leads to the damage of the tissues of the intestine. These people are very less likely to respond to the medicines and immediately require surgery. Intestinal inflammation surgery involves draining out the infected part of the intestine and then removing out the infected part.
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Young children and kids are at higher risk of intestinal inflammation. A severe infection of enterocolitis can result in diarrhoea and vomiting which can result in dehydration and loss of body fluids.

In case, the infection stays for a long time it can result in damage to the digestive system organs, inflammation of the intestine. Therefore, it is essential to consult a medical practitioner if there is diarrhoea accompanied by vomiting in kids.

Diet: since the person is having episodes of diarrhoea and vomiting, it is essential to keep a check on one’s diet. Diet can help in the quicker recovery of the person from enterocolitis as well as help in the prevention of disease from occurring. It is possible to support the recovery by taking the suitable diet.

The most important things that the person requires water due to the loss of water from the body caused because of diarrhoea and also replenish the salts in the body.

Drinking water throughout the day is vital and can help in replenishing the body as well as keeps the body hydrated. Also one should include fruits and vegetables with high water content in them.

Since it is a disease associated with the intestine, it is important to include food items which improve the health of the intestine.

One should add probiotics and prebiotics to the diet which will help in replenishing the healthy microbes in the intestine. It is essential to discuss the diet with a medical practitioner while undergoing treatment for enterocolitis.

  1. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/927845-treatment
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318567.php

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