DESCRIPTIONMalabsorption means poor absorption of nutrients from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream. The intestinal tract, liver, and pancreas are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSDiarrhea.
Gas and vague abdominal discomfort.
Bad-smelling, copious stools.
Mild anemia (sometimes).
CAUSESDeficiency of intestinal enzymes.
Inadequate digestion caused by disease of the pancreas (such as cystic fibrosis), gallbladder, or liver.
Change in bacteria that normally live in your child's intestinal tract.
Disease of the intestinal walls, including worms or parasites, tropical sprue, and celiac disease.
Surgery that reduces the intestinal tract, decreasing the area for absorption.
RISK FACTORSFamily history of malabsorption or cystic fibrosis.
Use of drugs, such as mineral oil and other laxatives.
Travel to foreign countries.
Excess alcohol consumption.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Your child should avoid prolonged dependence on mineral oil and other laxatives.
Your child should avoid excess alcohol consumption.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory studies of stool, chromosomes, and blood.
X-rays of the intestinal tract.
Special studies that may include ultrasonography, CAT or CT scan, MRI, and radionuclide scan (See Glossary for all).
Failure to thrive in infants.
Additional illness caused by nutritional, vitamin or mineral deficiency.
The degree to which your child's symptoms can be controlled depends on the cause, but many things are common to all malabsorptive disorders. The onset is usually slow and difficult to diagnose. Disorders may be present for months or years before being recognized. Treatment is long and complicated and may need to be changed often. Patience and a positive attitude are important in effecting a cure.
HOME CAREYour child may need injections of vitamin B-12 and iron because neither is absorbed well with any malabsorptive disorder.
MEDICATIONEnzymes to replace missing intestinal enzymes.
Anti-spasmodics to reduce discomfort.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your doctor may prescribe:
No restrictions. Your child can resume normal activities as soon as symptoms improve.
DIET & FLUIDS
Your child will need a special diet, depending on the cause of the illness. Your doctor or nutritionist will provide specific information. For a milk-free diet for lactase deficiency, See Appendix 30.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes, when appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of malabsorption or any of the following:Tarry bowel movements.
Fever of 101F (38.3C) or higher.
Severe abdominal pain.