Whipple's Disease: NIDDK
Article title: Whipple's Disease: NIDDK
Main condition: Whipple's disease
Conditions: Whipple's disease
Whipple's disease is a malabsorption disease. It interferes with the body's ability to absorb certain nutrients. The disease causes weight loss, irregular breakdown of carbohydrates and fats, resistance to insulin, and malfunctions of the immune system. When recognized and treated, Whipple's disease can be cured. Untreated, the disease is usually fatal.
Whipple's disease is caused by bacteria. It can affect any system of the body, but occurs most often in the small intestine. The disease causes lesions on the wall of the small intestine and thickening of the tissue. The villi--tiny, finger-like protrusions from the wall that help absorb nutrients--are destroyed.
Symptoms include diarrhea, intestinal bleeding, abdominal bloating and cramps, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and weakness. Arthritis and fever often occur several years before intestinal symptoms develop. Diagnosis is based on symptoms and results of a biopsy of tissue from the small intestine.
Whipple's disease is treated with antibiotics to destroy the bacteria that cause the disease. The physician may use a number of different types, doses, and schedules of antibiotics to find the best treatment. Depending on the seriousness of the disease, treatment may also include fluid and electrolyte replacement. Electrolytes are salts and other substances in body fluid that the heart and brain need to function properly. Extra iron, folate, vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium may also be given to help compensate for the vitamins and minerals the body is not absorbing on its own.
Symptoms usually disappear after 1 to 3 months of treatment. Because relapse is common even after successful treatment, the health care team may continue to observe patients for some time.
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Additional Information on Whipple's Disease
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse collects resource information on digestive diseases for the Combined Health Information Database (CHID). CHID is a database produced by health-related agencies of the Federal Government. This database provides titles, abstracts, and availability information for health information and health education resources.
To provide you with the most up-to-date resources, information specialists at the clearinghouse created an automatic search of CHID. To obtain this information you may view the results of the automatic search on Whipple's Disease.
Or, if you wish to perform your own search of the database, you may access the CHID Online web site and search CHID yourself.
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E-mail: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Established in 1980, the clearinghouse provides information about digestive diseases to people with digestive disorders and to their families, health care professionals, and the public. NDDIC answers inquiries; develops, reviews, and distributes publications; and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about digestive diseases.
Publications produced by the clearinghouse are carefully reviewed for scientific accuracy, content, and readability.
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NIH Publication No. 00-4685
e-text last updated: February 2000
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