What is Steatorrhea? Its Symptoms and Causes

Are you suffering from weight loss? Are you having abdominal pain? Do you have to flush your stool again and again to wash it away? If your answers to all the above questions are yes, you are probably having a condition called Steatorrhea. Read on to know all about Steatorrhea – its causes, symtoms and treatment.

Steatorrhea Definition

What is Steatorrhea? Doctors and medical experts normally define Steatorrhea as a medical syndrome which is characterized by increased excretion of fat. In this condition, an excessive amount of fat is found in the stool of the affected people. This is accompanied by an oily leakage from the anus.

The disease arises when the small intestine fails to properly absorb dietary fats.

Steatorrhea Symptoms

The condition is mainly characterized by an increased fat discharge in the stools. There are, however, a number of other symptoms associated with this disease. These are

Oily stools

The presence of excess fat gives an oily or greasy appearance to the feces.

Foul smell

What does Steatorrhea smell like? The fat content lends a foul odor to the excreted matter. The condition affects stools and not the urine of a person.

Pale color

In some cases, you can come across a pallid appearance in Steatorrhea color. The feces may show a pale color in a few patients suffering from conditions like liver disease.

Bulky stools

The presence of fat also gives a bulky appearance to the feces. In patients with Steatorrhea fatty stools are the most visible symptom.

Weight loss

In people suffering from Steatorrhea weight gain is unlikely. The condition arises from malabsorption or abnormal nutrient absorption and the patients naturally suffer from a weight loss. This is also accompanied with tiredness.

Steatorrhea Causes

Some of the causes of Steatorrhea are

Lack of bile acids

Steatorrhea after cholecystectomy is a common phenomenon. Steatorrhea and liver disease is also noticed. This is because of bile acid deficiency, which normally happens in case of liver damage or Cholecystectomy, can also give rise to this syndrome. Lack of bile acids can give a pale or gray color to the feces.

Impairments in Pancreatic Enzymes

Abnormalities in pancreatic enzymes can also be a reason behind this disorder.

Mucosal cell Impairment

Defects in cells of mucous membranes may also lead to this peculiar disease. Often, Steatorrhea is a symptom of mucosal cell defect.

Indigestible fat consumption

The disease may also arise if the affected person has very recently consumed indigestible oils or fats like Olestra. Having natural fats in the form of Escolar, Jojoba Oil and Oilfish can cause this problem.


Medicines like Orlistat which stall the absorption of dietary fat components can also produce Steatorrhea as a side-effect. It blocks the fat-digesting enzymes resulting in the formation of insoluble fats. These are excreted though feces, sometimes also accompanied with oily anal leakage.


Excessive alcohol intake for a long period of time damages pancreatic tissues and also leads to scarring. The pancreas suffers an inflammation as a result, giving rise to Steatorrhea.

Poor nutrient absorption

In many patients with Steatorrhea anemia is also seen. In a few people suffering from Steatorrhea diarrhea is also found be present. This occurs when there is poor absorption of food and vitamins in the body.

Steatorrhea and Cystic Fibrosis

Patients with Cystic Fibrosis are often seen to suffer from Steatorrhea. This is because the pancreas fails to properly release digestive enzymes in Cystic Fibrosis condition. This leads to pancreatic insufficiency, which affects fat absorption. As a result, fats get excreted with the other waste matters of the body. It leads to Steatorrhea.

Steatorrhea and Celiac Disease

This chronic disease mainly affects young kids and causes nutritional abnormalities. It is characterized by the inability to break down gluten, a protein matter found in cereals. This leads to various symptoms which include high fat content in feces. Celiac disease is a common cause for Steatorrhea in children.

Steatorrhea and Pancreatic Cancer

In many patients with Steatorrhea Pancreatic Cancer is found to be the causative agent. Pancreatic Cancer or Carcinoma leads to the origin of cancerous cells within pancreatic tissues. This affects the function of pancreatic tissues which fail to produce digestive juices required for fat absorption. It gives rise to Steatorrhea.

Steatorrhea Diagnosis

The diagnosis of this condition is a comprehensive one and depends on observation and specific examination. A Sudan III examination is normally carried out to determine the presence of fat in the feces. If a patient is found to consume only 100 gms of fat a day and excrete 7 gms of it daily, Steatorrhea is confirmed.

The diagnosis also aims to find out if any other disease is causing Steatorrhea. Steatorrhea Tests like CBC, Blood smear examination, Urinalysis, Upper GI series and d-xylose absorption exams are often carried out by a doctor to see if the person is suffering from any other disorder like Cystic Fibrosis.

Steatorrhea Treatment

The treatment of Steatorrhea usually depends on curing the disease responsible for the condition. Physicians normally use pancreatic enzyme supplements to treat the problem. These supplements break down in the small intestine and help the person regain pancreatic function once again. The digestive system becomes capable again to dissolve fats and Steatorrhea goes away within a few days. If the condition refuses to disappear, another enzyme supplement should be used.

Steatorrhea cure at home

If you are having Steatorrhea, you can try a few lifestyle modifications to get away from this condition. If you are suffering from Celiac disease, you should try a gluten-free diet. A typical Steatorrhea diet should be free from foods high in fat content.  If heavy drinking causes Steatorrhea alcohol intake should be cut down as much as possible.

Steatorrhea Pictures

What does Steatorrhea look like? If you are curious about the appearance of the syndrome, you can check out these Steatorrhea images. These Steatorrhea photos will give you an idea about the appearance of Steatorrhea fatty stools.

If you suspect yourself having Steatorrhea you should consult an experienced physician as soon as possible. The condition, as you must have guessed by now, is not a very serious disease by itself. However, it can be a symptom of some other condition like Pancreatic disorder or Celiac Disease. So it is best that you get it treated timely. Early detection will help you get treated easily and you can bounce back to health in no time!


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