alternatives treatment of autoimmune disease read our e-book
Whipple’s Disease On this page: What is Whipple’s disease? What causes Whipple’s disease? Who gets Whipple’s disease? What are the signs and symptoms of Whipple’s disease? How is Whipple’s disease diagnosed? How is Whipple’s disease treated? What is the likely outcome for people with Whipple’s disease? Points to Remember Hope through Research For More Information Acknowledgments What is Whipple’s disease?
Whipple’s disease is a rare bacterial infection primarily affecting the small intestine. It can also affect the heart, lungs, brain, joints, and eyes. Left untreated, Whipple’s disease is fatal.
What causes Whipple’s disease?
Bacteria called Tropheryma whipplei (T. whipplei) cause Whipple’s disease. T. whipplei infection can cause internal sores, also called lesions, and the thickening of tissues. Villi, which are tiny fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, take on an abnormal, clublike appearance.
The damaged intestinal lining fails to properly absorb nutrients, causing diarrhea and malnutrition.
Scientists are unsure how T. whipplei infects people. One theory is that some people are more vulnerable to Whipple’s disease—probably due to genetic factors that influence the body’s immune system. This theory is supported by the existence of a relatively high number of asymptomatic carriers—people who have the bacteria in their bodies but don’t get sick. Also, the bacteria are more common in the environment—showing up in soil and sewage wastewater—than would be predicted based on the rareness of the disease. And while multiple cases of Whipple’s disease have occurred within the same family, no documentation exists of a person-to-person transmission.
Who gets Whipple’s disease?
Anyone can get Whipple’s disease, but it is more common in middle-aged Caucasian men.
What are the signs and symptoms of Whipple’s disease?
Signs and symptoms of Whipple’s disease vary widely.
Classic signs and symptoms of Whipple’s disease include periodic joint pain, with or without inflammation, that may persist for years before the appearance of other symptoms chronic diarrhea, with or without blood weight loss abdominal pain and bloating fever fatigue anemia—a condition in which the blood has a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells
Less common signs and symptoms of Whipple’s disease include darkening of the skin enlarged lymph nodes chronic cough chest pain pericarditis—inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart heart failure
Neurologic symptoms occur in some people diagnosed with Whipple’s disease and can mimic symptoms of almost any other neurologic condition.
Neurologic symptoms of Whipple’s disease include Vision problems Dementia Facial numbness Headache Muscle weakness or twitching difficulty walking Memory problems