Malabsorption

Definition

Malabsorption is difficulty absorbing nutrients from food.

Alternative Names

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

Your doctor or nurse will examine you. Tests that may be done may include:

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.

visHeader

Digestive systemCystic fibrosisDigestive system organs

References

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

Hogenauer C, Hammer HF. Maldigestion and malabsorption. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 101.

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., Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
Review Date: August 10, 2012

A.D.A.M. quality A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process, and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation ( www.HONcode.ch.)

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. A.D.A.M. ©1997-2014 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Popular Health Centers

Advertisement
 
 

Sign Up for Free Newsletters

View All Newsletters

Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!

Get FREE tools and tips to get
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!

The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.