What is Malabsorption Syndrome in Children?

Malabsorption syndrome in children can be the source of serious problems. It's important to treat this condition as soon as possible to prevent it from getting worse. Everything starts with tests at the doctor's office.
What is Malabsorption Syndrome in Children?

Last update: 21 February, 2019

Doctors start to suspect malabsorption syndrome when the intestinal wall doesn’t capture nutrients during digestion. Malabsorption syndrome in children can cause chronic diarrhea, anemia, malnutrition, intestinal parasites or celiac disease, among others.

To figure out the causes of malabsorption syndrome, doctors will need information on medical and surgical history. It can be caused by a disease in the intestinal wall, previous problems with it, or a major problem.

In any case, your child should do tests to analyze the situation to get a good diagnosis. Next, we’ll show you some guidelines to follow.

Characteristics of the digestive process

The digestive process is responsible for transforming nutrients from food into small particles. They go into the bloodstream through the intestinal walls. From there, every cell in your body gets what they need to function properly.

For children with malabsorption syndrome, these nutrients leave with their feces. 

While viruses can also cause diarrhea and not absorbing nutrients properly, malabsorption syndrome has other causes. Therefore, if your child has prolonged diarrhea, you should go to your pediatrician as soon as possible.

What is Malabsorption Syndrome in Children?

Symptoms of malabsorption syndrome in children

There are two obvious signs: abdominal pain and runny, soft stool with a strong smell. If not treated properly, your child will be prone to infections, fractures, and weak skin.

In fact, this is true in both the short and long term. Among other things, it’s because his body won’t be able to defend itself well.

Malabsorption syndrome in children also causes mood swings. This is understandable because they constantly feel uncomfortable. Kids also feel irritable, restless, and drowsy.

Additionally, these serious symptoms don’t start after just 2 or 3 days. Clinical studies have shown that serious problems take place after a week or 10 days if the stool is still soft and there is still abdominal pain.

Diagnosing and treating malabsorption syndrome in children

Finding the causes of malabsorption syndrome is a very tedious process for both parents and children. Sometimes, your child may need an intestinal biopsy to check for diseases.

Additionally, it’s possible to confirm intestinal lesions from bacteria without fully understanding the reasons. In any case, the first thing the pediatrician will ask for is a feces culture. They’ll look for fats in the sample.

Different tests

Another possible test is the Schilling test, which focuses on malabsorption of vitamin B12, or the breath test. The latter determines whether the child has an intolerance to milk (lactose).

Your doctor will continue performing tests until he finds the cause. For example, the sweat test determines if the child has cystic fibrosis. That would mean there’s a shortage of enzymes that are important for digestion.

In severe cases, children need to be hospitalized to find out what’s causing it. As long as you don’t know the cause, you need to keep your child on a strict diet. 

However, your pediatrician needs to tell you whether or not to stop eating dairy. He’ll also tell you what your child may eat to avoid worsening the condition.

What is Malabsorption Syndrome in Children?

Effective treatment

When the pediatrician determines what the malabsorption responds to, he can prescribe a treatment. 

What could the results be for malabsorption syndrome in children? The simplest would be bacteria in the intestinal walls. You can treat this with antibiotics. You’ll see results in a few days.

Another possible cause and treatment of this syndrome is an overly active intestine. 

With this problem, your pediatrician will prescribe medications that counteract excessive intestinal activity. Therefore, food has time to process and the body can absorb nutrients.

In conclusion, malabsorption syndrome in children can be a serious problem if you don’t find the cause and treat it in time. For those with this condition that don’t know the cause, the best way to act is by eating foods that are easy to absorb.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.