What is Whipple's disease?
Whipple disease is a rare bacterial infection that most often affects your joints and digestive system.
Whipple disease interferes with normal digestion by impairing the breakdown of foods, such as fats and carbohydrates, and hampering your body's ability to absorb nutrients.Whipple disease can also infect other organs, including your brain, heart and eyes.
Without proper treatment, Whipple disease can be serious or fatal.However, a course of antibiotics can treat Whipple disease.
Whipple disease is caused by a type of bacterium called Tropheryma whipplei. Not much is known about the bacteria. Some researchers believe that people with the disease may have a genetic defect in their immune system response that makes them more likely to become sick when exposed to the bacteria.
Whipple disease is extremely uncommon, affecting fewer than 1 in 1 million people.
Digestive signs and symptoms are common in Whipple disease and may include:
- Abdominal cramping and pain, which may worsen after meals
- Weight loss
Other frequent signs and symptoms associated with Whipple disease include:
- Inflamed joints, particularly the ankles, knees and wrists
Less common signs and symptoms
In some cases, signs and symptoms of Whipple disease may include:
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Skin darkening
- Chest pain
- Enlarged spleen
Neurological signs and symptoms may include:
- Difficulty walking
- Visual impairment, including lack of control of eye movements
- Memory loss