EPI FAQ

Get answers to the most frequently asked questions about EPI.

The symptoms of EPI can mimic those of other digestive-related conditions. Symptoms of EPI can vary, but common symptoms include diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, steatorrhea (foul-smelling, greasy stools), gas, bloating, and stomach pain.
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is a medical condition that affects the exocrine function of the pancreas. With EPI, there are not enough pancreatic enzymes that are critical to the normal digestion of fats, as well as proteins and carbohydrates.
The symptoms of EPI can be similar to other gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, which makes EPI a difficult condition to diagnose. Only your doctor can determine if EPI is the cause of your symptoms.
If your symptoms indicate you may have EPI, your doctor will probably discuss the importance of a well-balanced diet. Your doctor also may start you on a pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy, or PERT. PERTs replace the digestive enzymes that your pancreas may not be producing anymore. Your doctor may also prescribe vitamin and mineral supplements to help you maintain proper levels of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
One reason EPI is hard to diagnose is that the symptoms can be similar to those of other digestive diseases and conditions. This is why it is important to talk to your doctor about any and all of your symptoms.
Your doctor will probably stress the importance of a well-balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight. If you have been diagnosed with EPI, you should work with your doctor or dietitian to make sure that all your dietary needs are being met. If you have been prescribed a pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT), it is important you take them with your meals and snacks as directed by your doctor.
Sources: 1. Fieker A, Philpott J, Armand M. Enzyme replacement therapy for pancreatic insufficiency: present and future. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2011;4:55-73. 2. Domínguez-Muñoz JE. Pancreatic enzyme therapy for pancreatic exocrine insufficiency. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2007;9(2):116-122. 3. Ferrone M, Raimondo M, Scolapio JS. Pancreatic enzyme pharmacotherapy. Pharmacotherapy. 2007;27(6):910-920. 4. Alkaade S, Vareedayah AA. A primer on exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, fat malabsorption, and fatty acid abnormalities. Am J Manag Care. 2017;23(suppl 12):S203-S209.