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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. Approach to the patient with diarrhea and malabsorption. In Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. . 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 142.

Hogenauer C, Hammer HF. Maldigestion and malabsorption. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ eds.. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 101.

Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.