Reference Index - Disease & Conditions

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Digestive system
Digestive system


Cystic fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis


Digestive system organs
Digestive system organs


Malabsorption

Definition:

Malabsorption is difficulty 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:



Symptoms:
  • Bloating, cramping, and gas
  • Bulky stools
  • Chronic diarrhea (may not occur with vitamin malabsorption)
  • 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: 7/7/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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