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The condition may manifest itself with complications related to protein loss, including edema, or retention of fluid, and ascites, or retention of fluid in the abdomen. Proteins are absorbed in the small intestine, and any condition that affects the digestion or absorption of protein can result in protein-losing enteropathy.
The diagnosis of protein-losing enteropathy is typically made by excluding other causes of protein loss, such as nephrotic syndrome. Endoscopy and barium imaging can be used to localize the cause of the protein loss in the bowel. Faecal excretion of alpha 1-antitrypsin is a marker of protein-losing enteropathy.