What causes Steatorrhea?
What are the symptoms of Steatorrhea?
Simply put, Steatorrhea is a medical term to describe fat that ends up in your stool. Having fat in your stool can cause it to become bulky and float, in addition to having an oily or greasy appearance. It will also smell worse than just the stool alone. The fat that ends up in your stool is fat that your digestive tract failed to absorb. Individuals may have steatorrhea that is temporary, resulting from dietary changes or even intestinal infections. If your steatorrhea happens to be persistent, it could be because of a disease of your pancreas, intestines, or your biliary tract.
Bile is what makes fat absorption possible, making the process of fat absorption dependent on bile. The bile is made in the liver and gets stores in your gallbladder. Fat absorption is also triggered by your pancreatic lipases and the normal functioning of your intestine. If you have an absence of bile, it could be because your biliary tract has some blockage. This will make your stool look pale, as well as filled with fat. It is very rare for someone to be missing their pancreatic lipases, but it can occur in some people that have a pancreas disease, abnormality during birth or cystic fibrosis.
There are various things that can interfere with the absorption of fat, such as the inflammation of the lining of the intestines that can occur with a variety of conditions: ulcerative colitis, which is the inflammation of the colon and rectum, celiac disease, which is a critical sensitivity to a gluten diet, or Crohn’s disease, which is an inflammation of the bowels. Furthermore, your fat absorption may be affected by the surgical removal of a piece of your intestines.
In most cases, steatorrhea is a very short-term problem that’s related to your diet or some kind of temporary infection. However, if it happens to last for more than a couple of weeks, becomes more severe, or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms, it could be something more critical. If you have blood in your stool, or have a black or tarry stool, or even stool with pus, you should seek medical attention. Other signs that the steatorrhea may be a more serious problem is if it’s accompanied by sharp abdominal pain, high fever, or cramping. If your steatorrhea is consistent and seems to be of concern based on what is discussed here, you should seek immediate medical care.
So, what other symptoms could go along with steatorrhea? There are a variety of other symptoms that can come along with steatorrhea that will differ based on the underlying disease, condition or disorder. The conditions that affect the digestive tract may also involve other systems of your body.
What are some of the digestive tract symptoms that may come along with having steatorrhea?
There are many possible symptoms that can affect the digestive tract in an individual with steatorrhea. The most common symptoms that occur are abdominal pain or abdominal cramping. There could also be abdominal swelling, distension or even bloating that may occur. You could also have some abnormally foul-smelling stools that will have a distinct smell from the standard. The following are further symptoms that may occur in your digestive tract when you are dealing with steatorrhea:
- Blood in your stool that is red, black, or even tar-like in texture
- Moderate to severe diarrhea
- Excessive gas
- Nausea by itself or nausea accompanied by vomiting
- Pale looking feces
Here are some other symptoms that may occur when you have steatorrhea:
- An evident cough
- Urine that is dark
- A weak immune system, causing frequent infections
- Itchy skin
- Weight loss that is unexplained
- A yellowing of your skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
In rare cases, steatorrhea may actually be a life-threatening condition. Although it doesn’t happen often, it’s good to be aware of the extent of what steatorrhea is capable of. In this case, it is highly recommended that you are evaluated at a hospital immediately as possible. The following is a list of symptoms that you may have if your steatorrhea is serious or even life-threatening:
- Blood in your stool that is dark red or black in color, and may have a tarry texture
- Becoming unresponsive or even passing out
- Chest pain, tightness pressure or even palpitations
- A high fever that is higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit
- Inability to produce urine (for infants: not producing the same amount in their diapers)
- Having difficulty breathing, such as shortness of breath or noticeably labored breathing
- Having a rigid abdomen
- A severe abdominal pain or sharp pain that comes along abruptly
So, what exactly causes steatorrhea?
In the case of having temporary steatorrhea, it may be because of some kind of dietary change or even intestinal infection. If the steatorrhea is persistent, it may be the result of a disease that affects the biliary tract, intestines, or the pancreas. There are many different things that may cause steatorrhea that happens in the intestines. Here are some of the intestinal causes of steatorrhea:
- Celiac disease, which comes from a significant sensitivity to gluten, coming from wheat and other grains that can cause intestinal damage
- Difficulty digesting certain types of foods without having the symptoms of a food allergy
- Inflammatory bowel disease that includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Short-bowel syndrome or shortening of your intestines
You can also anticipate if you have steatorrhea by symptoms that may occur in your biliary tract. Here are some of the symptoms that steatorrhea may bring about in your biliary tract:
- A failure of the development of bile ducts that happens at birth called biliary atresia
- A narrowing of the bile duct called biliary stricture
- Cancer of your biliary tracts or your gallbladder
Below are some of the causes of steatorrhea that are related to your pancreas:
- An abnormality of the lipase production called congenital pancreatic lipase deficiency
- Cystic fibrosis, which complicates the functioning of the lung and pancreas
- Pancreatic cancer
- Inflammation of the pancreas referred to as pancreatitis
If think that you might have steatorrhea, it’s recommended that you visit your physician for a check-up. Your doctor will ask you some questions to help determine whether or not you’re suffering from steatorrhea. Below are some of the questions you should prepare yourself to answer to give your physician the best possible details:
When were you first suspicious of having steatorrhea?
Has there been any mucus, blood or pus in your stool?
Is there a change in the color of your stool?
Did you make any significant changes in your diet?
Do you do anything that makes your symptoms better or worse?
Have you had similar symptoms like the ones you’ve been having before?
Have you undergone any type of surgery to remove a part of your intestines?
Are you taking any medication?
Steatorrhea can be a result of a serious disease, and that is why it’s important to seek treatment because there may be serious complications or even permanent damage if steatorrhea goes untreated. See your doctor, and if you are diagnosed with steatorrhea, it’s very important that you follow your physician’s treatment plan. Serious complications may occur if you fail to follow your medical plan, so do anything you are capable of to follow through with it.