Whipple’s Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Whipple’s disease is a rare, systemic caused by a gram negative bacteria. It is recognized to be a major cause of culture-negative endocarditis. Whipple’s interfere with normal digestion by impairing the breakdown of foods.

Whipple’s disease is more common in men, with 87% of the patients being male. When recognized Whipple’s disease can usually be cured with long-term antibiotic therapy. Whipple disease is extremely rare, affecting fewer than 1 in 1 million people.

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How Does Whipple’s Disease Affect Your Body?

Whipple’s disease is a multi-system, infectious, bacterial disease that interferes with the body’s ability to process or metabolize fats. This disorder can affect any system in the body, including the central nervous system, but usually occurs in the gastrointestinal system. In the gastrointestinal system, it interferes with the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients which leads to malabsorption. Neurological symptoms include abnormalities of the eye and facial muscle movements, confusion, seizures, ataxia, memory loss, and vision impairment. Fever, cough, and joint soreness may also be present.

What Are The Causes of Whipple’s Disease?

Whipple disease is caused by a gram negative bacteria, Tropheryma whipplei.

While the cause of this disease is bacteria, some researchers believe that people with this disease may have a genetic defect in their immune system response that makes them probable to become sick when exposed to the bacteria.

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What Are The Risk Factors of Whipple’s Disease?

Very little is known about the cause of Whipple’s disease. Following risk factors are based on available reports of this disease:

  • Sex – Men with age between 40-60 years are most likely to get this disease.
  • Environment – Farmers and people who work outdoors and have frequent contact with sewage and wastewater are also at risk of this disease.
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What Are The Symptoms of Whipple’s Disease?

Common symptoms of Whipple’s disease include diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and joint pain. Joint pain may be due to migratory non-deforming arthritis, which may occur many years before any digestive tract symptoms develop.

A severe form of Whipple’s may cause malabsorption which leads to wasting and the enlargement of lymph nodes in the abdomen.

Eye problems, such as uveitis, may occur which is associated with deteriorating vision and pain in the affected eye. Endocarditis has been reported in a small number of cases; typically noticed as breathlessness and leg swelling due to fluid accumulation as the heart is unable to pump fluid through the body.

A neurological problem like dementia, memory loss, confusion, and decreased level of consciousness is common.

How is Whipple’s Disease Diagnosed?

  • Physical exam – Physical exam to look for signs that suggest the presence of this condition, such as abdominal tenderness and skin darkening, particularly on sun-exposed parts of your body.
  • Biopsy – Usually taken from the lining of the small intestine to examine it under a microscope for the presence of disease-causing bacteria and their lesions, and specifically for Tropheryma whipplei
  • DNA test – Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) can detect Tropheryma whipplei bacteria in biopsy specimens or spinal fluid samples.
  • Blood tests – Blood tests can help to detect certain conditions associated with Whipple disease, particularly anemia, which is a decline in the number of red blood cells, and low concentrations of albumin, a protein in your blood.
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How To Prevent And Control Whipple’s Disease?

At present, there is no known way to prevent Whipple disease. Practice good hygiene and wash your hands properly before and after meals and after using the washroom.

Treatment of Whipple’s Disease – Allopathic Treatment

Medications used are penicillin, ampicillin, tetracycline, or co-trimoxazole for one to two years.

At present, Whipple’s disease should be treated with doxycycline with hydroxychloroquine for 12 to 18 months. Sulfonamides (sulfadiazine or sulfamethoxazole) may be added to treat symptoms of neurological symptoms.

Treatment of Whipple’s Disease – Homeopathic Treatment

There’s no known homeopathic medicine available at present.

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Whipple’s Disease – Lifestyle Tips

  • Proper sanitation should be there in the house including access to clean water.
  • Always wash your hand before and after meals and after using the washroom.
  • Follow good personal and food hygiene.
  • Include food high in calories, protein, and vitamin in your diet.
  • Take nutritional supplements if you malabsorption.

What Are The Recommended Exercises For a Person With Whipple’s Disease?

No specific exercise is recommended for patients with Whipple’s disease.

Whipple’s Disease & Pregnancy – Things to Know

There’s a little information on how Whipple’s disease affect pregnancy and the fetus.

Common Complications Related to Whipple’s Disease

  • Damage to the walls of the heart causing murmurs and heart dysfunction.
  • Nutritional deficiencies due to poor absorption of vitamins, proteins and other nutrients.
  • Severe weight loss.
  • Brain damage.

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