Malabsorption is varcharacterized by poor absorption of nutrients, vitamins and minerals from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream. Organs that may be involved include the intestinal tract, the liver and the pancreas.
Causes of Malabsorption
There are a number of causes of malabsorption. They arise from changes in the anatomy of the intestine or changes of the contents of the intestinal tract. There may be a deficiency of intestinal enzymes, produced by diseases that affect the pancreas, such as cystic fibrosis. The gallbladder and liver may be diseased affecting absorption of fats. Changes in the bacteria that normally inhabit the intestinal tract, such as might occur with antibiotic use, can lead to alteration of absorption of some compounds from the intestinal tract. Disease within the intestinal tract, such as parasites or worms, may used nutrients intended for the body. Celiac disease produces changes in the intestinal villi. They no longer can absorb substances as before and do not produce adequate amounts of certain enzymes. Tropical sprue, the cause of which is unknown, affects visitors to the tropics. It can be treated with vitamin supplements and antibiotics. Surgical procedures may alter or decrease the amount of intestines available for absorption, leading to malabsorption.
Signs and Symptoms of Malabsorption
People who suffer from some type of malabsorption syndrome often will have bad-smelling, copious stools. The stool may contain mucus or be in the form of diarrhea. Vague abdominal discomforts are common as is excessive gas. Generalized weakness and unintended weight loss may occur. Occasionally, there may be anemia, especially if there are problems absorbing vital nutrients and vitamins needed for red cell production.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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