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Definition:

Malabsorption is difficulty digesting or absorbing nutrients from food.



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Many diseases can cause malabsorption. Malabsorption is usually the inability to absorb certain sugars, fats, proteins, or vitamins from food. It can also involve a general malabsorption of food.

Some of the causes of malabsorption include:

Vitamin B12 malabsorption may be due to:

Malabsorption of vitamins can occur even without diarrhea.



Symptoms:
  • Bloating, cramping, and gas
  • Bulky stools
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Failure to thrive
  • Fatty stools (steatorrhea)
  • Muscle wasting
  • Weight loss

Malabsorption can affect growth and development, or it can lead to specific illnesses.



Signs and tests:

Treatment:

Vitamin and nutrient replacement is often necessary.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

The outlook depends on the condition causing malabsorption.



Complications:

Long-term malabsorption can result in:



Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if you notice symptoms of malabsorption.



Prevention:

Preventive methods depend on the condition causing malabsorption.



References:

Semrad CE, Powell DW. Approach to the Patient with Diarrhea and Malabsorption. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 143.




Review Date: 8/22/2008
Reviewed By: Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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