Steatorrhea

Overview
  • Steatorrhea is diarrhea in which the stool has a high content of lipids which may make the stool appear oily and give it a foul odor.
Pathophysiology
  • Overview
    • Steatorrhea is caused by derangements in normal lipid handling by the alimentary tract. Derangements of GI lipid digestion may be due to defects in synthesis or transport of pancreatic lipid-digesting enzymes. Derangements of GI lipid absorption may be due to defects in synthesis/transport of bile acids or defects of the small intestine mucosa which prevent proper absorption of lipid-bearing micelles.
  • Sequellae
    • Continued luminal presence of osmotically active yet unabsorbed lipids may result in a component of osmotic diarrhea. Because fat-soluble Vitamins A, D, E, and K are absorbed along with lipids (See GI Vitamin Absorption), prolonged steatorrhea may result in deficiencies of those vitamins. Additionally, prolonged inability to digest and absorb lipids will lead to significant weight loss.
Etiologies