Important facts to know about whipple’s disease

  • Jan 27 , 2017

Whipple disease is the result of a rare bacterial infection that destroys the lining of the small intestine and affects multiple systems throughout the body. It is also known as a gastrointestinal disorder.

Whipple disease can affect people of any age, but the average age of the diagnosis is between 48 and 54. It is common in men than in women.

Causes of Whipple disease

Whipple’s disease is caused by the infection of Tropheryma whipplei bacteria. However, it is still unclear that how Tropheryma whipplei gets into people, but it might be ingested in particles of faecal matter. The bacteria develop in soil and waste water which makes people and farmer who work outdoors are more favourable of contracting the disease.

When T. Whipplei gets inside the body, it causes internal sores and tissue thickening in the small intestine. This damage prevents the intestinal lining from sufficiently absorbing nutrients, which eventually lead to malnutrition. Whipple’s disease is rare and there is no consensus regarding how many people it affects.

Signs and symptoms of Whipple’s disease

Whipple’s disease has two phases involved. In its initial phase, people commonly experience joint pain, fever, fatigue, and arthritis.

Another common sign of Whipple’s disease is Migratory arthralgia, which is the pain in the different joints at different times as if migrating from one joint to another.

Gastrointestinal symptoms: diarrhea, weight loss, and abdominal pain are the most common symptoms in the late phase of the disease. Late phase can also affect numerous other body systems, especially eyes, heart, and central nervous system.

Potentially causing a wide range of symptoms including:

  • Weakness
  • Bloody stool
  • Darkened skin
  • Vision problems
  • Memory loss
  • Facial numbness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Hearing problem
  • Dementia
  • Chest pain
  • Heart failure
  • Chronic cough

Whipple’s disease if left untreated can cause serious complications including heart damage, long-lasting nutritional deficiencies and brain damage. It can ultimately cause death.

Diagnosis and treatment

  • Whipple’s disease is typically diagnosed only after gastrointestinal symptoms arise. The doctor starts the diagnosis by conducting a physical examination which involves:
  • Blood test to check for malabsorption of nutrients
  • To detect bacterial DNA, Polymerase chain reaction tests are done on your stool and saliva.
  • Gastrointestinal endoscopy with a biopsy.
  • Biopsy of an affected organ is required to diagnosis Whipple’s disease.
  • Whipple’s disease can be cured with antibiotics. Usually, a doctor gives ceftriaxone or penicillin initially by the vein, followed by trimethoprim/ sulfamethoxazole taken by the mouth for at least 12 months.