Small Intestine

Small intestine is the part of digestive tract between the stomach and colon of the large intestine. Its primary function is digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. The three parts of small intestine are duodenum, ileum and jejunum. Duodenum connects to the stomach then is jejunum and the last part of the small intestine is ileum which connects to the large intestine.

The Common diseases of Small Intestine are:

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a genetic disease and run in families. The body of these people does not tolerate gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. On eating gluten containing food such as pizza and bread, the immune system responds by damaging the inner surface of the small intestine hindering proper absorption of nutrients. Symptoms may vary in individuals. They generally include complain of abdominal pain and diarrhea. Deficiency of nutrients causes general weakness and weight loss. Children with celiac disease show stunted growth. As the symptoms are not very specific, diagnosis is important. Some people even do not show any gastrointestinal symptoms. Diagnosis involves blood test for detection of antibodies against gluten. To confirm the diagnosis the doctor may ask for endoscopy to collect a biopsy of the small intestine to check for damage on the internal lining. In some case capsule endoscopy is also done to examine the damage in the whole small intestine from inside. There is no cure for the disease. The disease can be managed by avoiding food containing gluten. Doctor may prescribe vitamin and mineral supplements to take care of the nutritional deficiency.

Crohn’s Disease

It causes inflammation of the digestive tract. It mostly affects the last part of the small intestine (ileum) and colon. It can occur at any age. The family history and stress increases the chances to have Crohn’s disease. Symptoms include diarrhea and abdominal pain, blood in stool and weight loss. Children with the disease show stunted growth. Diagnosis may involve one or more test such as blood test, fecal occult test, computerized tomography (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan), colonoscopy, small bowel imaging, barium enema, flexible sigmoidoscopy, capsule endoscopy or double balloon endoscopy. There is no cure for the disease. To manage the symptoms and reduce inflammation doctor may prescribe medications, nutritional supplements and in certain cases surgery may be advised.

Intestinal Cancer

It is a rare disease. A fat rich diet, medical history of colonic polyps and presence of Crohn’s or celiac disease increases the chances for having intestinal cancer. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, blood in stool, iron deficiency anemia and unexplained weight loss. Diagnosis is through imaging techniques such as endoscopy of the upper gastrointestinal tract, CT scan of the abdomen, abdominal ultrasound or barium contrast study. Treatment involves surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Small Intestinal Obstruction

It may occur due to physical obstruction because of hernia, tumor, intestinal adhesions, Crohn’s disease or twisting of intestine. It may also occur when the intestine cannot function well due to muscle or nerve disorder such as paralytic ileus. Intestinal obstruction may be partial or complete. Symptoms include constipation, inability to pass gas, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting with swelling of the abdomen. It is a medical emergency and treatment depends on the cause of obstruction. Treating the underlying cause relieves the condition and in many cases it requires surgery.

Duodenum Ulcer

Duodenum is the upper part of the small intestine which connects to the stomach. Duodenum ulcers are the open sores that develop in the internal lining of the duodenum. Long term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines for pain and bacterial infection with Helicobacter pylori causes duodenum ulcer. How the bacterium spreads is not yet clear. Stress and spicy food only worsen the symptoms but do not cause the disease. The common symptom is abdominal pain which occurs more often when the stomach is empty and generally goes away after eating. Diagnosis includes blood, stool or breathe test specific for Helicobacter pylori or barium contrast test or Endoscopy. Endoscopy is done to check for ulcers and to collect biopsy sample from these ulcers for further laboratory identification of the H. pylori. Treatment includes acid suppressing agents such as antacids, proton pump inhibitors and antihistaminic agents to block the stomach acids and antibiotics to kill H. pylori, the ulcer causing bacterium.