Whipple disease is a rare bacterial infection that most often affects the patient’s joints and digestive system. Whipple disease interferes with normal digestion by impairing the breakdown of foods, such as fats and carbohydrates, and hampering the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Whipple disease can also infect other organs, including the brain, heart and eyes.
Whipple disease prevents the patient’s body from properly absorbing nutrients. Because of this, it affects many different parts of the body and is associated with a variety of symptoms. In advanced stages of the disease, the infection may spread from the intestines to other organs such as the ;
The most common signs and symptoms of Whipple’s disease include;
- Chronic joint pain
- Chronic diarrhea that can be bloody
- Significant weight loss
- Stomach pain and bloating
- Decreased vision and eye pain
- Anemia, or low blood cell count
The following signs and symptoms don’t occur as frequently but can indicate that the condition is getting worse;
- Skin discoloration
- Inflamed lymph nodes
- A chronic cough
- Pain in the chest
- Pericarditis, or swelling of the sac around the heart
- Heart failure
- A heart murmur
- Poor vision
- Muscle weakness
- Trouble walking
- Poor memory
Whipple disease is caused by a type of bacterium called Tropheryma whipplei. The bacteria affect the mucosal lining of the small intestine first, forming small lesions within the intestinal wall. The bacteria also damage the fine, hairlike projections (villi) that line the small intestine.
A diagnosis of Whipple’s disease is complicated, especially because symptoms are similar to other more common conditions that range from celiac disease to neurological disorders. Your doctor will try to rule out these other conditions before diagnosing you with Whipple’s disease.
- Polymerase Chain reaction
- Blood tests
An aggressive course of antibiotics is usually the first step in treatment, including two weeks of antibiotics through an IV. in, addition, the patient will likely be on daily antibiotics for one to two years.
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