Lactose Intolerance

  • Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder Anand, MD

Quick GuideThe Most Common Food Allergies for Kids and Adults

The Most Common Food Allergies for Kids and Adults

Which specialties of doctors treat lactose intolerance?

Since internists, pediatricians, and family practitioners all see patients with gastrointestinal symptoms, they all are called upon to diagnose and treat lactose intolerance. If their attempts to diagnose and treat do not result in adequate clinical benefit, patients usually will be referred to a gastroenterologist, an internist or pediatrician specially trained in diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. These specialists will be able to diagnose and treat causes of symptoms other than lactose intolerance.

What are the long-term consequences of lactose intolerance?

The important long-term health consequence of lactose intolerance is calcium deficiency that leads to osteoporosis. Less commonly, vitamin D deficiency may occur and compound the bone disease. Both of these health issues can be prevented easily by calcium and vitamin D supplements. The real problem is that many lactose intolerant people who consciously or unconsciously avoid milk do not realize that they need supplements.

What is new in lactose intolerance?

Genetic testing of DNA of individuals to make a diagnosis of lactase deficiency has already been discussed. This is likely to be an important research tool for studying lactase deficiency. It is still too early to know how helpful this sophisticated test will be in the clinical evaluation and treatment of patients. It is an expensive test. The most important question to answer usually is, does lactose cause symptoms, and not, whether an individual is lactase deficient.

In 1998, scientists were able to make lactose intolerant rats tolerant to lactose by transferring the gene for lactase production to their intestinal lining cells. It is unlikely that this type of gene therapy will find much of an application in people. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating example of what science can accomplish.

REFERENCE: Roy, P.K., MD. "Lactose Intolerance." Medscape. Updated: Jul 14, 2015.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/187249-overview>

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/28/2016

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