An Overview of Small Intestine Disorders

Small intestine disorders affect the gastrointestinal tract at the small intestine. This organ is essentially a long tube that aids in digestion, divided into three sections: the duodenum, the ileum, and the jejunum. Conditions of the small intestine usually cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, weight loss, malnutrition, and fatigue.

Common conditions of the small intestine include:

  • Chronic diarrhea – When diarrhea lasts for longer than two weeks, it is considered chronic. For most people it is a hindrance to daily activities, but for individuals with a weakened immune system, it could be lethal.
  • Enteric fistula – When the connection between two organs is abnormal, it is called a fistula. An enteric fistula is when that fistula is specifically located between the gastrointestinal tract and another organ.
  • Intestinal cancer – Also called small bowel cancer, this occurs when cancerous cells grow in the lining of the small intestine. Depending on what type of cell is affected, it is usually one of five types: adenocarcinoma, carcinoid tumor, gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), lymphoma, or sarcoma.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – This occurs when part or all of the digestive tract is inflamed, and includes both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. IBD and related small intestine disorders can be very painful and debilitating.
  • Malabsorption disorders – As its name implies, this condition occurs when the small intestine is unable to adequately absorb some or all nutrients, leading to malnutrition.

Treatment of conditions of the small intestine can range from surgery to simply implementing a specific diet to promote self-healing. If you would like to consult a physician in regards to small intestine disorders, use Tampa General Hospital’s PhysicianFinder. Named one of America's Best Hospitals for Gastroenterology & GI Surgery by U.S. News & World Report, TGH uses the latest technology to diagnose and treat many kinds of gastrointestinal disorders.