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Intestinal lymphangiectasia is an uncommon disorder characterized by the blockage of lymph vessels supplying the small intestine. Lymph vessels absorb digested fat from the small intestine that is not taken up by blood vessels. A blockage in the lymph vessels create a build-up of pressure, resulting in leakage of the lymph fluid into the intestine. As a result, proteins and fats do not get absorbed. Symptoms of intestinal lymphangiectasia include diarrhoea, pain in the abdomen, severe swelling of one or both legs, stools that are fatty, nausea and vomiting.

The cause of blockage of the lymph vessel can be congenital (formed at birth) or acquired (due to pancreas inflammation or hardening of the sac that encloses the heart).

Intestinal lymphangiectasia can be diagnosed with the help of a biopsy, where a sample of tissue is removed endoscopically by passing a long thin viewing tube with a camera and small clipper through the intestine, or by angiography (dye is injected into your blood stream; any obstruction can be viewed through X-ray imaging). Your doctor may also order other blood tests to make a definitive diagnosis. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and includes taking vitamins, calcium and certain triglyceride supplements, and eating a low fat and high protein diet.


  • Medical Board of Australia
  • Royal Australasian College of Physicians
  • Gastroenterological Society of Australia
  • American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
  • American Gastroenterological Association
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