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Whipple's Disease
Whipple's disease is a malabsorption illness. It interferes with the body's ability to absorb certain nutrients. The disease causes weight loss, incomplete breakdown of carbohydrates or fats, and malfunctions of the immune system, and it may affect the heart, lungs, brain, and eyes. When recognized and treated, Whipple's disease can usually be cured. Untreated, the disease may be fatal.

Whipple's disease is caused by bacteria named Tropheryma whippelii. It can affect any system of the body, but occurs most often in the small intestine. Lesions appear on the wall of the small intestine and thicken the tissue. The villi--tiny, finger-like protrusions from the wall that help absorb nutrients--are damaged.

Symptoms include diarrhea, intestinal bleeding, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and weakness. Arthritis and fever often occur several years before intestinal symptoms develop. Patients may experience neurological symptoms as well. Diagnosis is based on symptoms and the 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 cannot absorb on its own.

Full recovery of the small intestine may take up to 2 years, but the symptoms usually disappear in less time. Because relapse is common even after successful treatment, the health care team may continue to monitor the patient for many years.

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For More Information

National Organization for Rare Disorders Inc. (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
P.O. Box 1968
Danbury, CT 06813-1968
Phone: 1-800-999-6673 or (203) 744-0100
Fax: (203) 798-2291
Email: orphan@rarediseases.org
Internet: www.rarediseases.org

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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.

If you wish to perform your own search of the database, you may access the CHID Online website and search CHID yourself.


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National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
2 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3570
Email: nddic@info.niddk.nih.gov

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The 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 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 by both NIDDK scientists and outside experts.

This e-text is not copyrighted. The clearinghouse encourages users of this e-pub to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.


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NIH Publication No. 03-4685
November 2002
http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/whipple/index.htm

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