What is Whipple’s disease?
Whipple’s disease is a rare bacterial infection that mainly affects the joints and digestive system. Whipple’s disease interferes with normal digestion by damaging the breakdown of foods such as fats and carbohydrates and by damaging the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Whiplash can also infect other organs, including the brain, heart, and eyes. Without proper treatment, whiplash disease can be serious or fatal. However, a course of antibiotics can treat Whipple’s disease. Antibiotic treatment is possible, but some patients relapse and require long-term treatment. It is named after George Whipple, who discovered the bacteria in 1907. Men outnumber women, and 87 percent of people with Whipple’s disease are men between the ages of 40 and 60.
Whipple’s disease is a bacterial infection. Bacteria generally affect your digestive system, especially your small intestine, but they can also cause problems in other parts of your body, such as your heart, joints, lungs, eyes, and immune system. And 40% of people with Whipple’s disease also have problems with their nervous system, which includes their brain, spinal cord, and the nerve network that runs throughout their body.
Symptoms of Whipple’s disease
Digestive signs and symptoms are common in Whipple’s disease and can include:
- Stomach cramps and pain, which are worse after a meal
- Weight loss is associated with poor absorption of nutrients
Other common signs and symptoms associated with Whipple’s disease include:
- Swollen joints, especially ankles, knees, and wrists.
- Less common signs and symptoms
In some cases, the signs and symptoms of Whipple’s disease may include:
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Hyperpigmentation of the skin in areas and spots exposed to the sun
- Chest pain
- Enlarged spleen
Nervous signs and symptoms can include:
- Difficulty to walk
- Visual impairment, including lack of control over eye movements.
- Memory loss
In most people with this disease, symptoms develop slowly over many years. In some cases, symptoms such as joint pain and weight loss can appear years before the digestive symptoms leading to diagnosis.
Causes of Whipple’s disease
- A bacterial organism called Tropherima Whipple (T. Whipple) causes Whipple disease by severely infecting the lining of the small intestine.
- The infection spreads to the heart, lungs, brain, joints, and eyes. Whipple affects any system in the body, but it most often manifests in the small intestine.
- The disease creates lesions in the wall of the small intestine and hardens the tissue. Tiny finger-like bumps are destroyed from the wall that helps absorb nutrients called Willys.
- People with this disease have a reduced ability to break down proteins and cells.
- Whipple’s disease is very rare, and there is no consensus on how much it affects people.
- Some research suggests that there are 12 new cases of the disease worldwide each year.
- According to a 2008 report by The Lancet Infectious Diseases, other studies indicate less than one annual occurrence per million population.
Risk factors of Whipple’s disease
Because very little is known about the bacteria that cause Whipple’s disease, risk factors for the disease have not been clearly identified. Based on available reports, this is likely to affect:
- Men aged 40 to 60
- Whites in North America and Europe
- Farmers and other people who work outdoors and often deal with sewage and sewage
Diagnosis of Whipple’s disease
The diagnosis of whiplash is complex, especially since the symptoms are similar to other common conditions ranging from celiac disease to neurological disorders. Your doctor will try to rule out these other conditions before diagnosing you with Whipple’s disease.
- Endoscopy: Lesions are the first sign your doctor will see if you have Whipple’s disease. Endoscopy is the insertion of a small flexible tube into the small intestine below the throat. A mini camera is attached to the tube. Your doctor will monitor the condition of your intestinal walls. Thick walls with creamy, ripped covers are a potential sign of spanking.
- Biopsy: During endoscopy, your doctor can remove tissue from the intestinal wall to check for the presence of beaten bacteria. This procedure is called a biopsy, and it can confirm infection.
- Polymerase chain reaction: The polymerase chain reaction is the removal of T from your tissue samples. The most sensitive test for amplifying Whipple DNA. If there are bacteria in your tissue, you have DNA evidence. This test can detect the presence of T in your tissue. Whipple can confirm the presence of bacteria.
- Blood test: Your doctor may order a complete blood count. Both signs of anemia can help you determine if you have low levels of red blood cells and low levels of albumin. Anemia indicates that you may have a Whipple disease.
Treatment of Whipple’s disease
For many years, Whipple’s disease has been considered a fatal primary metabolic disorder, although current treatment greatly improves the patient’s chances of survival. Antibiotics are now the main treatment for whiplash disease. They can prevent symptoms from becoming fatal. Therapy may include penicillin with or without other antibiotics such as streptomycin or erythromycin.
Relapses are frequent. These can occur months or even years after the initial treatment. They affect the central nervous system, so prescription antibiotics require adequate penetration of the blood-brain barrier. With effective treatment, the mucous membrane that surrounds the small intestine, called the mucosa, returns to normal. In a few days, the bacteria will disappear and after 1 to 2 months, only the dying organisms will appear.
The finger-shaped structure of the bow also returns to its normal position. However, for some patients, it can take years for the intestine to return to normal. If you experience a relapse after treatment or neurological symptoms during your initial infection, your treatment may include:
Other treatment options include:
- Ingesting proper amounts of fluids
- Taking antimalarial medication for 12 to 18 months
- Using iron supplements to assist with anemia
- Taking vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium, and magnesium supplements
- Maintaining a high-calorie diet to help with nutrient absorption
- Taking corticosteroids to help ease inflammation
- Taking non-steroidal pain medication, such as ibuprofen
- Whipple’s disease is a bacterial infection that can lead to death if it’s not treated properly.
The antimalarial drug is Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine)
- Gamma interferon is a protein that activates the immune system.
- Corticosteroids to control inflammation.
- Adequate fluid and electrolyte restoration is essential in patients with intestinal malabsorption.
- Iron or folic acid supplements can help correct anemia.
- Vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium may be needed to balance calcium levels.
- Vitamin K can correct coagulopathy or proper blood clotting.
- The patient’s diet should be high in calories, protein, and other vitamins, as Whipple’s disease can lead to malnutrition.
Complications of Whipple’s disease
The lining of your small intestine contains fine hair-like projections (Willys) that help your body absorb nutrients. Whipple’s disease damages the willy, weakening the absorption of nutrients. Malnutrition is common in people with Whipple’s disease and can lead to fatigue, weakness, weight loss, and joint pain.
Whipple’s disease is a progressive and fatal disease. Although the infection is very rare, related deaths continue to be reported, mainly due to delays in diagnosis and treatment. Death often occurs due to the spread of infection to the central nervous system, causing irreversible damage.
Prevention of Whipple’s disease
To date, there is no known way to prevent Whipple’s disease.
However, good hygiene, for example, and regular handwashing can reduce the risk.