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|Synonyms||lactase deficiency, hypolactasia|
|Lactose which is made up of two simple sugars|
|Classification and external resources|
|Patient UK||Lactose intolerance|
Lactose intolerance is a condition in which people have symptoms due to the decreased ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk products. Those affected vary in the amount of lactose they can tolerate before symptoms develop. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, gas, and nausea. These typically start between half and two hours after drinking milk or eating milk products. Severity depends on the amount a person eats or drinks. It does not cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract.
Lactose intolerance is due to not enough of the enzyme lactase in the small intestines to break lactose down into glucose and galactose. There are four types: primary, secondary, developmental, and congenital. Primary lactose intolerance is when the amount of lactase declines as people age. Secondary lactose intolerance is due to injury to the small intestine such as from infection, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or other diseases. Developmental lactose intolerance may occur in premature babies and usually improves over a short period of time. Congenital lactose intolerance is an extremely rare genetic disorder in which little or no lactase is made from birth.
Diagnosis may be confirmed if symptoms resolve following eliminating lactose from the diet. Other supporting tests include a hydrogen breath test and a stool acidity test. Other conditions that may produce similar symptoms include irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. Lactose intolerance is different from a milk allergy. Management is typically by decreasing the amount of lactose in the diet or taking lactase supplements. Those affected are usually able to drink at least one cup of milk without developing significant symptoms, with greater amounts tolerated if drunk with a meal or throughout the day.
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