Duodenitis is inflammation of the duodenum, the first portion of the small intestine. The duodenum is a tube around a foot long. Its near end connects to the stomach; the duodenum’s far end blends into the rest of the small intestine.
Duodenitis can only be diagnosed with a tissue biopsy, which is performed using endoscopy (esophagogastroduodenoscopy). The duodenum can become inflamed (irritated, swollen, and occupied by white blood cells) for various reasons. The most common is infection by H. pylori, a bacteria that lives in the stomach and/or duodenum. About half of Americans over age 60 have been infected with H. pylori at some point in life.
H. pylori stimulates increased acid production by the stomach and causes low-grade inflammation of the duodenum (duodenitis). Symptoms can include pain in the middle of the belly, or indigestion. In some cases, the inflammation of duodenitis worsens to create a small sore (ulcer) in the duodenum’s wall.
Less commonly, inflammatory conditions can cause duodenitis:
- Crohn's disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Whipple’s disease
- Severe stress caused by surgery or a serious infection (sepsis)
Cases of duodenitis or duodenal ulcer caused by H. pylori can usually be cured with antibiotics and stomach acid-suppressing drugs.
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