EPI and Your Body

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on November 15, 2022
2 min read

When you have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), your body will let you know. The condition happens when your pancreas doesn’t make the enzymes you need to digest food. Without them, you won’t get enough important vitamins and nutrients from your diet. That can lead to a few classic signals of the condition.

You might feel or notice:

  • You’re losing weight without trying. It’s a common symptom of EPI.
  • Greasy, foul-smelling stools that float or are tough to flush. It’s a sign your body isn’t absorbing fat from your diet as it should.    
  • Diarrhea.
  • Stomach cramps. You may be bloated, too.
  • Bad-smelling gas. When you don’t absorb food well, bacteria can grow in your intestine and release smelly gasses.
  • Swelling in your lower legs.
  • Skin that’s pale, bruises easily, or gets rashes.

You might not have all of these symptoms, but you should let your doctor know what you’ve been feeling.

Besides its outward symptoms, EPI also affects your body in ways you can’t always see or feel.

When you don’t absorb fat and other nutrients from food well, your body can be low on vitamins A, D, E and K. Without them, you could become less able to see at night or in low light, a condition called night blindness. You could also get bone diseases like osteopenia. EPI can also lead to anemia, in which your blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells.

In severe cases, your bones could break easily, and you might get muscle spasms or cramps, or have seizures. When you don’t get enough vitamins and nutrients from your food you could also have problems with walking and balance. You could also notice weakness or numbness in your hands and feet.

If you have EPI, your doctor will suggest treatments that can help. They can also recommend other ways to improve your digestion. If you’re not getting better, let them know.