Suffering lately from abdominal pain? Are you passing exceptionally foul smelling stools? Did you have a rapid weight loss in the recent months? If your answer is yes for all these, you may be suffering from Steatorrhea. Know what is Steatorrhea – its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
Medical experts usually define Steatorrhea as a medical condition that is characterized by passing of stools that contain a high amount of fat. People affected with Steatorrhea pass excessive amounts of fat from their body along with stools. This is accompanied by an oily discharge from the anus.
The condition usually arises when the small intestine becomes unable to properly absorb fats that enter the system through foods.
Know about some of the main symptoms arising of Steatorrhea.
People affected with this disorder pass stools that contain an excess amount of fat. This gives a greasy or oily appearance to Steatorrhea stools. In Steatorrhea fatty stools are a major issue.
In patients of Steatorrhea color of feces often becomes pale. This is particularly seen in individuals suffering from liver disorders along with Steatorrhea.
If you are having the condition you probably know what does Steatorrhea smell like? The presence of fat gives the stool an odor that is fouler than usual. The excreted matter smells terrible. The foul Steatorrhea smell is, however, present in the feces and not the urine of the suffering person.
In people affected with Steatorrhea weight gain is generally not seen despite consumption of fatty foods. Rather, there is severe weight loss which probably results from fat excretion, abnormal nutrient absorption and malabsorption.
Affected individuals also find their stools to be bulkier than usual. It requires repeated flushing to clear them away. The presence of fat content is the reason behind the weight of the stools. In case of Steatorrhea fatty stools are one of the most prominent symptoms.
What Causes Steatorrhea?
Know about some of the main Steatorrhea causes.
Bile Acid Deficiency
It is common to find Steatorrhea after Cholecystectomy, the surgical removal of the gall bladder. Cholecystectomy as well as any other condition resulting in liver damage can give rise to a lack of bile acids in the body. Pale or gray color of stools is often a result of deficiency of bile acid deficiency. Steatorrhea and liver disease are seen in many people.
Defects of Pancreatic Enzymes
Steatorrhea may also arise if the Pancreatic Enzymes fail to function properly.
Impaired Mucosal Cells
Steatorrhea is often a symptom of some defect in mucous membrane cells.
Consumption of indigestible fats or oils like Olestra can give rise to this disorder. Natural indigestible fats present in Jojoba Oil, Oilfish and Escolar can lead to Steatorrhea.
Drugs like Orlistat can block the enzymes that digest fat components in the diet. This stalls fat absorption and can give rise to side effects like Steatorrhea. The fats are expelled from the body through feces and as oily release from the anus.
Poor Absorption of Nutrients
Poor absorption of vitamins and foods is a prime reason for the appearance of Steatorrhea. It is because of this reason that Steatorrhea patients are often seen to suffer from problems like anemia or low red blood cell count and diarrhea. In sufferers of Steatorrhea Diarrhea is often a causative factor. For many people with Steatorrhea anemia is another reason.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Too much consumption of alcohol for a very long time can damage tissues in the pancreas and cause scarring and swelling. This can result in Steatorrhea. For sufferers of Steatorrhea alcohol intake should be reduced.
Steatorrhea and Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic Fibrosis is a congenital condition in which the sufferer, usually a child, has his lungs, intestines and pancreas congested with mucus. In such cases of Steatorrhea in children, the pancreas fails to release digestive enzymes properly. In Steatorrhea in infants and children, this leads to a state called pancreatic insufficiency which affects proper absorption of fats. Consequently, the fats get discharged from the body along with excretory matters.
Steatorrhea and Celiac Disease
Celiac Disease is an auto-immune disorder marked by heightened sensitivity of the small intestinal lining to gluten. This makes the body unable to digest food properly and gives rise to problems like Steatorrhea.
Steatorrhea and Pancreatic Cancer
Carcinoma or Pancreatic Cancer gives rise to the growth of malignant cells inside pancreatic tissues. This affects normal pancreatic tissue operations. In people with Steatorrhea pancreas tissues fail to make digestive juices needed for absorption of fats. This is the reason behind the condition. In sufferers of Steatorrhea pancreatic cancer is a huge cause for concern.
Doctors normally detect this condition by a combination of physical observation of the symptoms and lab tests. A Sudan III test of the stools is usually carried out to detect the presence of fats. Steatorrhea is affirmed in a person who excretes 7 gms of fat after consuming 100 gms of fat on a daily basis.
If the doctor finds it difficult to detect the exact cause of Steatorrhea tests like d-xylose absorption examination, Blood smear examination, Upper GI series, CBC and Urinalysis may be carried out. These Steatorrhea investigations help find out if the person is suffering from any underlying disease like Cystic Fibrosis.
Treatment of Steatorrhea generally depends on curing the underlying health condition. Usually, pancreatic enzyme supplements are used to treat Steatorrhea problems in patients. These enzymes decompose in the small intestine and restore normalcy into the pancreas. The digestive system regains its capability to dissolve fatty components and Steatorrhea disappears within a week.
If there is no improvement in the condition, some other enzyme supplement should be applied for treatment. Symptoms usually start going away in a few days in patients of Steatorrhea and weight gain may happen sometime later.
Steatorrhea Cure At Home
Apart from medications, Steatorrhea treatment can be done at home by making a few lifestyle changes like
Reducing fat components in diet can help keep the symptoms under control. Sufferers of Celiac Disease can give Gluten-free diet a try. In patients of steatorrhea diet should remain as free of fat as possible.
If Steatorrhea is found to be a result of heavy drinking, alcohol intake should be severely reduced. Even normal people should cut down their alcohol consumption for a better health.
Want to know what does Steatorrhea look like? Here are some useful Steatorrhea images that can be of help to you. Check out these Steatorrhea photos and know how the condition looks like.
Picture 1 – Steatorrhea Picture
Source – chula
Picture 2 – Steatorrhea Photo
Source – luc
If you are suffering from Steatorrhea or have someone having it in your family, it is best to go for treatment as early as you can. Steatorrhea is not a very serious condition. But there can be health issues if Steatorrhea is a symptom of conditions like Celiac Disease or Pancreatic disorder. Early diagnosis and fast treatment will help faster recovery and avoidance of any serious complication in future.
Written by anirudh
on February 16th, 2011. The article was last updated on September 2nd, 2011