Is Whipple’s Disease?
Bacteria called Tropheryma
whipplei cause Whipple’s disease. This bacteria affects the digestive
system and can spread to the:
It’s a relatively rare disease, but it can be life-threatening.
It’s widely believed that there’s a genetic predisposition
to developing the illness. White men between 40 and 60 are more
likely to contract the condition than any other group. The rate for
Whipple’s disease also tends to be higher in places that lack freshwater and
proper sanitation. Currently, there’s no known way to prevent Whipple’s
Associated with Whipple’s Disease
Whipple’s disease prevents your 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
The following signs and symptoms don’t occur as frequently
but can indicate that the condition is getting worse:
of Whipple’s Disease
Infection with the T. whipplei bacteria is
the one and only known cause of Whipple’s. The bacteria will lead to the
development of internal sores and cause bodily tissues to thicken.
The villi are finger-like tissues that absorb nutrients in
the small intestine. When the villi begin to thicken, their natural shape
begins to change. This damages the villi and prevents them from effectively
absorbing nutrients. This leads to many of the symptoms of Whipple’s disease.
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.
The first sign your doctor will look for to determine if you
have Whipple’s disease is lesions. An endoscopy is
the insertion of a small flexible tube down your throat to the small intestine.
The tube has a mini camera attached. Your doctor will observe the condition of
your intestinal walls. Thick walls with creamy, ragged covers are a potential
sign of Whipple’s.
During an endoscopy, your doctor may remove tissue from your
intestinal walls to test for the presence of the T. whipplei bacteria.
This procedure is called a biopsy and can
confirm an infection.
Polymerase Chain Reaction
Polymerase chain reaction is a highly sensitive test that
amplifies the DNA of the T. whipplei from your tissue samples.
If the bacteria have been in your tissue, there will be DNA evidence of it.
This test can confirm the existence of the T. whipplei bacteria in
Your doctor might order a complete blood count.
This will help determine if you have a low count of red blood cells and low
amounts of albumin, which are both signs of anemia. Anemia is an indication
that you might have Whipple’s disease.
for Whipple’s Disease
An aggressive course of antibiotics is usually the first
step in treatment, including two weeks of antibiotics through an intravenous
(IV). In addition, you’ll likely be on daily antibiotics for one to two years.
Other treatment options include:
- ingesting proper amounts of fluids
- taking antimalarial medication for 12 to 18
- using iron
supplements to assist with anemia
- taking vitamin
D, vitamin K, calcium, and magnesium supplements
- maintaining a high-calorie diet to help with
- taking corticosteroids to help ease inflammation
- taking nonsteroidal pain medication, such as ibuprofen
Whipple’s disease is a bacterial infection that can lead to
death if it’s not treated properly.
After treatment begins, many of the symptoms will go away
within a month. The best thing you can do is continue to take your antibiotics.
Relapses are common. When they occur, additional symptoms, such as neurological
problems, can show up as well.