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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What is duodenitis?

Duodenitis is inflammation or irritation of the duodenum. The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine, just below your stomach.

Abdominal Organs

What increases my risk for duodenitis?

Duodenitis is usually caused by bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H pylori). The following can also lead to duodenitis:

  • A bacterial, fungal, or viral infection
  • Severe illness or stress
  • NSAIDs, aspirin, or steroid medicine
  • Use of tobacco products or alcohol
  • Crohn disease
  • Radiation for cancer treatment
  • An injury to your stomach or small intestine
  • A toxic object you swallowed, such as a button battery

What are the signs and symptoms of duodenitis?

You may have no symptoms, or you may have any of the following:

  • Abdominal pain that may be a burning pain
  • Chest pain or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Bloating or gas
  • Loss of appetite

How is duodenitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your signs and symptoms and examine you. You may need tests to confirm that you have an H pylori infection. You may also need any of the following:

  • Endoscopy is used to look for problems in your stomach or duodenum. Your provider will use an endoscope (tube with a light and camera on the end) during the procedure. He or she may take a sample from your duodenum to be tested.
  • Blood tests may be used to show an infection.
  • A breath test may show if H pylori is causing your duodenitis. You will be given a liquid to drink. Then you will breathe into a bag. Your provider will measure the amount of carbon dioxide in your breath. Extra amounts may mean you have an H pylori infection.
  • A bowel movement sample may be tested for bacteria that may be causing your duodenitis.

How is duodenitis treated?

Your symptoms may go away without treatment. You may need treatment if your symptoms are severe or become chronic. Treatment will depend on what is causing your duodenitis. Your provider may recommend changes to the medicines you take. Medicines may be given to help treat a bacterial infection or decrease stomach acid.

What can I do to manage or prevent duodenitis?

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause blood vessel and lung damage. Ask your provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your provider before you use these products.
  • Limit or do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can make your duodenitis worse. Talk to your provider if you need help to stop drinking.
  • Do not take NSAIDs or aspirin unless directed. These and similar medicines can cause irritation. It may help to take NSAIDs with food, but you may not be able to take them at all.
  • Do not eat foods that cause irritation. Foods such as oranges and salsa can cause burning or pain. Eat a variety of healthy foods. Examples include fruits (not citrus), vegetables, low-fat dairy products, beans, whole-grain breads, and lean meats and fish. Try to eat small meals, and drink water with your meals. Do not eat for at least 3 hours before you go to bed.
    Healthy Foods
  • Keep batteries and similar objects out of the reach of children. Babies often put items in their mouths to explore them. Button batteries are easy to swallow and can cause serious damage. Keep the battery covers of electronic devices such as remote controls taped closed. Store all batteries and toxic materials where children cannot get to them. Use childproof locks to keep children away from dangerous materials.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • You have bloody or black, tarry bowel movements or vomit.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have new or worsening symptoms, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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