Whipple’s Disease - Some Details To Know

Initially described in the year 1907 by George Hoyt Whipple, the bacterial infection in the intestine is more common in middle-aged people. This issue is termed as Whipple’s Disease by his name and it is stated that if left untreated, this issue can be deadly. The medical name for this condition is intestinal lipodystrophy.

This is rather an uncommon systemic disease that is caused due to infection caused by bacteria that prevents the small intestines from absorbing nutrients from the foods consumed in an appropriate manner. This issue is something that interferes in the normal working of the digestive system of the body. This condition is known to impair the ability of the body for breaking down and absorbing carbohydrates, fats and other minerals from the foods consumed.


This condition is caused by the bacteria called as Tropheryma Whipplei and even though, doctors do not know how this bacterium gets into the human body. Doctors state that some people might have weakness in their immune response that makes them more susceptible to this infection. This bacterium is known to exist in the atmosphere and this condition is known to affect people, who are exposed to animals and soil. Generally, this bacterium is known to affect the mucosal lining in the small intestine and it is known to form small lesions in the intestinal wall. It slowly destroys the small hair-like outgrowths that line the small intestine and the infection can gradually spread to other organs of the body as well.

Symptoms of this condition:

The problem with this health issue is that the symptoms develop slowly over a longer period of time. So, after the initial joint pain surface, the other symptoms will show up only slowly. Not just pain in the joints, other symptoms for this condition includes weight loss and diarrhea. However, symptoms for this condition vary from one patient to another. Some patients do not get even the fundamental symptoms mentioned above. The other symptoms include the following:

• Pain in chest

• Chills and fever

• Fatigue

• Anemia

• Changes in mental health like memory loss, seizures and delirium

• A grey to brown complexion. As this condition is generally known to affect white men, the change in the skin color will be highly visible, while in some patients skin nodules can occur

• Abdominal pain, which will generally aggravate after food consumption.


Generally, a physical examination will be conducted by the health care provider. This infection in the intestine brings about changes in the albumin levels in the blood. So, a blood test can reveal the health issue. In some cases, the infection by this bacterium can lead to severe damage to the central nervous system, brain and the heart. When the infection gets to the heart, it will be difficult for this organ to pump fluid through the body, thereby leading to fluid accumulation that can be absorbed with swelling in the legs and breathlessness.

When it comes to treatment for this condition, dietary supplements and antibiotics may be prescribed.

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