Tropical Sprue - Some Facts To Be Aware Of

Tropical sprue is a condition that arises due to inflammation of intestines. When this happens, it will be difficult for the body to absorb the nutrients from the foods that are consumed. This condition can be otherwise referred to as malabsorption, wherein it will be difficult for the body to particularly absorb Vitamin B-12 and folic acid contents from the foods consumed. This means that the patient will not be able to get the nutrients and vitamins that are essential for the proper functioning of the body.

What causes this condition?

Unless an individual visits or lives in tropical areas, this is a rare condition. It is found that this condition occurs due to overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines. However, the specific bacterium that causes this condition is not known so far. Doctors state that patients respond to antibiotics, when they have this health issue.


Common symptoms for this condition include:

• Sudden loss of weight

• Paleness

• Numbness in the body

• Muscle cramps

• Irritability

• Indigestion

• Excessive gas

• Diarrhea, which will worsen when high fat diet is taken

• Abdominal cramps


As many other conditions share the similar symptoms mentioned above, a series of tests might be recommended by the doctor. Also, the doctor will ask whether the patient has recently travelled to a tropical region, if he does not live in such a region. One method followed for diagnosis is identifying the nutritional deficiency it has caused in the body. The following tests might be recommended:

• Level of Vitamin D in the body

• Vitamin B-12 level in blood

• Folate level

• Complete Blood Count

• Bone density test

To confirm the diagnosis, an enteroscopy might also be suggested, during which a thin tube will be inserted through the mouth with a tiny camera for taking the pictures of gastrointestinal tract. Also, the doctor will identify the changes in the small intestine. Even, a small sample of tissue may be removed during this examination for sending to biopsy analysis. When a swelling is found in the lining of small intestine, it might have been caused due to Tropical sprue.

What does the treatment involve?

As mentioned earlier, antibiotics are widely used for treating this condition. They can kill the bacterium that leads to this condition and they can be taken for a period of two weeks to a year. Experts state that Tetracycline is the antibiotic widely used for treating this condition and it has proven to be the effective remedy and it is affordable as well. Even, the doctor might prescribe other broad-spectrum antibiotics as well.

Tetracycline is generally not recommended for children until they have all their permanent teeth and the reason is that it can lead to tooth discoloration as they are still not formed. Children generally receive a different antibiotic.

Apart from killing bacteria, it is important that the malabsorption should also be treated and the doctor will prescribe supplements for lacking vitamins, minerals and nutrients to make the patient feel better.

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