Whipple’s Disease – What is it, Symptoms and Treatments!

Whipple’s Disease – What it is, Symptoms and Treatments of this rare infectious disease. In addition, Whipple’s Disease is a rare systemic disease caused by the bacterium Tropheryma whippelii. The main symptoms are arthritis, weight loss, abdominal pain and diarrhea. The diagnosis is made by biopsy of the small intestine . Treatment initially consists of ceftriaxone or penicillin, followed by at least 1 year of trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole.

Whipple ‘s Disease predominantly affects white male males aged 30 to 60 years. Although it affects many parts of the body (eg, heart, lungs, brain, serous cavities, joints, eyes, digestive tract), the mucosa of the small intestine is almost always involved. Affected patients may have defects in cellular immunity that predispose to T. whippelii infection.

Causes of Whipple’s Disease: Infection with T. whipplei bacteria is the sole cause of Whipple’s Disease . These bacteria lead to the development of internal inflammation and the thickening of body tissue.

When the villi (finger-like tissues that absorb nutrients in the small intestine ) begin to thicken, their natural shape begins to change. The villi are compromised and prevented from properly absorbing nutrients . This, in turn, causes several symptoms of Whipple’s Disease .

Symptoms of Whipple Disease: By preventing the body from absorbing nutrients naturally, Whipple Disease affects many parts of the body and is associated with many symptoms. In the advanced stage of the disease, the infection can spread from the intestine to other organs such as the heart, lungs, brain, joints and eyes.

The most common signs of Whipple’s disease include:

  • chronic joint pain, sometimes with inflammation;
  • chronic diarrhea that may or may not be bleeding;
  • significant weight loss;
  • stomach pain and bloating;
  • loss of vision and eye pain;
  • fever;
  • fatigue;
  • anemia (low red blood cell count);

The signs below are not as common, but may indicate worsening of Whipple’s Disease:

  • abnormal skin coloring;
  • inflamed lymph nodes;
  • chronic cough;
  • chest pain;
  • pericarditis – swelling of the membrane that surrounds the heart;
  • heart failure or heart murmur;
  • vision problems;
  • insanity;
  • numbness;
  • insomnia ;
  • muscle weakness or tics;
  • difficulty walking and memory problems.

Whipple’s Disease – What is Whipple’s Disease Treatments: The treatment of Whipple’s Disease  is done with antibiotics such as tetracycline, penicillin, sulfasalazine, among others. Symptoms disappear quickly, but tissue healing can take up to 2 years.

There may be a relapse several years after the end of therapy, despite an initial treatment judged to be effective, occurring in greater proportion in patients with CNS involvement and in patients treated with only one type of antibiotic or with antibiotics that do not cross the blood-brain barrier.

Diagnosis: The diagnosis of Whipple Disease  is usually made through a biopsy of the small intestine that is accessed through an upper endoscopy. It can also be done through an enlarged (hypertrophied) lymph node that reveals characteristic microscopic changes.

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