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Alternative NamesIntestinal lipodystrophy
Definition Return to top
Whipple's disease is a rare condition that prevents the intestine from properly absorbing nutrients. This is called malabsorption.
Causes Return to top
Whipple's disease is caused by infection from bacteria called Tropheryma whippelii. The disorder mainly affects middle-aged white men.
Whipple's disease is extremely rare. Risk factors are unknown.
Symptoms Return to top
Symptoms usually start slowly, and may include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
Tests may include:
This disease may also change the results of the following tests:
Treatment Return to top
You will need to take long-term antibiotics to cure any infections of the brain and central nervous system. A medicine called ceftriaxone is given through a vein (IV). It is followed by an antibiotic (such as trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole) taken by mouth for up to 1 year.
If symptoms come back during antibiotic use, the antibiotic treatment may be changed.
Your health care provider should closely follow you, because signs of the disease can return after you finish therapy. Those who have nutritional deficiencies from malabsorption will also need to take dietary supplements.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Without treatment, the condition is usually fatal. Treatment relieves symptoms and can cure the disease.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have persistent abdominal pain and diarrhea.
If you are being treated for Whipple's disease, call your health care provider if:
References Return to top
West SG. Systemic diseases in which arthritis is a feature. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 297.Update Date: 10/13/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.