Symptoms of EPI are similar to those of other conditions that affect your stomach and digestion
Many people do not realize that the pancreas plays an important role in digestion and that problems with the pancreas can result in digestive issues. When you have EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency), your body is missing the enzymes it needs to digest food, which causes important nutrients to pass through the body unabsorbed. Malabsorption can lead to a number of signs and symptoms that may vary from person to person. If you have one, some, or all of the symptoms listed below, be sure to talk to your doctor.
EPI symptoms may include:
A symptom of fat malabsorption, diarrhea is commonly experienced by people with EPI.
Gas and bloating
People with EPI cannot properly digest the food they eat, which can result in uncomfortable symptoms like gas and bloating.
Fat maldigestion due to EPI can lead to gas, bloating, and stomach pain.
Unexplained weight loss
EPI affects protein and carbohydrate digestion, but the greatest impact comes from fat maldigestion, which is the primary cause of weight loss in people with EPI. While it may not seem serious, it’s important to tell your doctor if you’re losing weight and don’t know why. This weight loss can be a sign of EPI or another medical condition.
Foul-smelling, oily stools (steatorrhea)
Steatorrhea is a type of bowel movement that is oily, floats, smells really bad, and is difficult to flush. People with EPI are not able to absorb all the fat that they eat, so undigested fat is excreted, resulting in stools that look oily or greasy. Not all people experience this symptom.
Talk to your doctor if you have one or more symptoms
If you have been experiencing one, some, or all of the symptoms of EPI, make sure you let your doctor know as soon as possible. Download the
to keep track of any symptoms you may be experiencing, and share them with your doctor.
Answers to frequently asked questions
Underlying conditions and surgical procedures that may cause EPI include cystic fibrosis, chronic pancreatitis, pancreatectomy, and pancreatic cancer. Other conditions and surgical procedures in which EPI has been reported include acute pancreatitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, and gastrointestinal surgery.
Because EPI affects your body’s ability to break down food, it may prevent you from absorbing enough nutrients, resulting in serious complications, such as malnutrition. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor if you think you might have EPI. If your doctor diagnoses you with EPI and prescribes a treatment, it’s important to continue taking it exactly as your doctor tells you.
Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapies (PERTs) are the standard of care for EPI. PERTs replace digestive enzymes that your body may be missing. Because PERTs help you digest food, they need to be taken every time you eat—with every meal and snack.