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Malabsorption syndrome
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Malabsorption syndrome

Contributors: Michael W. Winter MD, Desiree Rivera-Nieves MD, Khaled Bittar MD, Nishant H. Patel MD, Paritosh Prasad MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Malabsorption syndrome refers to the inadequate absorption of nutrients. This can be due to inherited or acquired defects in the small intestine mucosal epithelium.

Patients will present with an osmotic diarrhea (ie, profuse, watery) steatorrhea, abdominal distention, abdominal pain, or weight loss. They can also present with sequelae of vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies, which can have widely variable presentations.

Malabsorption is a broad disease category. There are many disease states that result in malabsorption, and the clinical presentation will vary based on the location and severity of the intestinal malabsorption.

Related topics: Failure to thrive, Malnutrition, Copper deficiency, Vitamin C deficiency, Folate deficiency, Iodine deficiency, Niacin deficiency, Iron deficiency, Zinc deficiency (acquired and hereditary), Vitamin A deficiency, thiamine deficiency, Vitamin B2 deficiency, Vitamin B6 deficiency, Vitamin B12 deficiency, Vitamin D deficiency, Vitamin E deficiency, Vitamin K deficiency


K90.9 – Intestinal malabsorption, unspecified

32230006 – Malabsorption Syndrome

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Abetalipoproteinemia
  • Intestinal lymphangiectasias
  • Celiac disease
  • Whipple disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Disaccharidase deficiency (Lactose intolerance)
  • GastroenteritisViral gastroenteritis, Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli infection, fungal, or parasitic
  • Blind loop syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (eg, Crohn disease, Ulcerative colitis)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Microscopic Colitis
  • Protein-losing enteropathies
  • Short bowel syndrome
  • Bile salt diarrhea

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Last Reviewed:10/03/2018
Last Updated:12/02/2019
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Malabsorption syndrome
A medical illustration showing key findings of Malabsorption syndrome : Abdominal pain, Diarrhea, Abdominal distension, Failure to thrive, Anorexia, Steatorrhea
Clinical image of Malabsorption syndrome - imageId=1814371. Click to open in gallery.  caption: 'Diffuse bright pink erythema of the palms and fingers.'
Diffuse bright pink erythema of the palms and fingers.
Copyright © 2024 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.