Malabsorption is a condition in which the body does not effectively absorb nutrients from food in the small intestine. Malabsorption can be caused by a wide variety of diseases or disorders, including celiac disease, chronic liver disease, chronic pancreatitis, Crohn's disease, and lactose intolerance. Other conditions that can cause malabsorption include some surgeries of the gastrointestinal tract, such as gastrectomy or gastric bypass. Parasitic infections of the gastrointestinal tract and some genetic diseases are other potential causes of malabsorption.
Malabsorption is common and can affect anyone. Some diseases that cause malabsorption are inherited or have a genetic component. Other risk factors for developing a condition or disease that result in malabsorption include having gastrointestinal surgery, alcoholism, or HIV/AIDS. People with certain other conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease, autoimmune liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and microscopic colitis are also at risk for developing malabsorption.
Malabsorption can involve a difficulty or inability to absorb all nutrients from food, or it can involve only specific nutrients, such as certain carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, or proteins. In a healthy gastrointestinal tract, most absorption of nutrients takes place in the small intestine. Any disease or disorder that interferes with the intestines ability to absorb nutrients can lead to malabsorption. Examples include celiac disease, in which a gluten intolerance damages the small intestine, and some parasitic infections of the gastrointestinal tract.
Malabsorption may also occur when a disease or disorder interferes with the normal mixing of food with digestive juices and acid in the stomach. This can occur when part of the stomach is removed surgically. In addition, any condition that obstructs or impedes the normal production of digestive enzymes may also lead to malabsorption. These conditions include pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
Symptoms and complications of malabsorption vary in character and severity depending on the specific cause of the condition and other factors. However, some symptoms and complications are similar in most conditions due to the due to the lack of nutrients that the body receives. These can include weakness and malnutrition. For more information on symptoms, refer to symptoms of malabsorption.
Making a diagnosis of malabsorption and its underlying cause begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. Diagnostic tests may include imaging studies that examine the small intestine stomach and/or pancreas for abnormalities that lead to malabsorption. These may include endoscopy, colonoscopy, X-rays, and upper or lower GI studies with barium.
A sample of the small intestine may also be taken to examine under a microscope for abnormalities. This is called a biopsy. Blood tests can reveal a large amount of diagnostic information, such as nutritional deficiencies, the presence of anemia, and the presence of high levels of certain antibodies, which may indicate such causes of malabsorption as celiac disease.
It is possible that a diagnosis of malabsorption can be missed or delayed because symptoms can be vague and resemble symptoms of less serious conditions, such as mild gastroenteritis. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of malabsorption.
Treatment of malabsorption varies widely, depending on the cause and underlying diseases, the severity of symptoms, the person's age and medical history, and other factors. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of malabsorption. ...more »
Malabsorption: Failure to digest nutrients properly.
More detailed information about the symptoms,
causes, and treatments of Malabsorption is available below.
The types and severity of symptoms of malabsorption can differ depending on the cause and underlying diseases, the person's age and medical history, and other factors. Symptoms can run the gamut from nonexistent, to mild, to severe.
General symptoms of malabsorption include weakness, fatigue, weight loss, depression, and muscle wasting. Gastrointestinal symptoms can include ...more symptoms »
The treatment plan for malabsorption varies depending on the cause and underlying disease, the severity of symptoms, a person's age and medical history, and other factors.
Treatment often involves pinpointing and replacing missing vitamins and nutrients with supplementation. Other medications may be needed depending on the underlying conditions. Medications may include antibiotics for an ...more treatments »
A diagnosis of malabsorption may be delayed or missed because some symptoms can be vague and may initially be attributed to another less serious condition. For example, gas and abdominal bloating are typical symptoms of malabsorption, but may be overlooked because it is easy to assume it is related to other factors, such as overeating.
Pinpointing a diagnosis can also be ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Malabsorption
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Treatments for Malabsorption
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Wrongly Diagnosed with Malabsorption?
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Malabsorption: Undiagnosed Conditions
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Misdiagnosis and Malabsorption
Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms
of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed.
The best known, irritable bowel...read more »
Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea
is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, sometimes called intestinal...read more »
Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely
to cause some level of diarrhea in patients.
The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria,...read more »
Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down
with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's "something I ate" (i.e. food...read more »
Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the
more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over-diagnosed
(it can, of course, also fail to be diagnosed with fatal...read more »
Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive
conditions is celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder with a variety of symptoms (see ...read more »
Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent
difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases.
Some of the better known possibilities are ...read more »
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Definitions of Malabsorption:
Abnormal absorption of nutrients from the digestive tract
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
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