Signs and Symptoms of Whipple’s Disease

Whipple’s disease is a rare bacterial disease of the small intestine. It is caused by the bacterium Tropheryma whipplei (T. Whipplei). It causes typical internal sours. These are called lesions. These cause thickening of villi, the finger like projections of small intestine. This gives abnormal club like appearance to the villi.

As a result the ability to absorb and assimilate nutrients by the body gets affected. This leads to diarrhoea and malnutrition. There is no evidence of person-to-person transfer though.

Not all the people who have the bacteria in them are affected. This gives rise to some speculation regrading the existence of a causative gene. The evidence though is inconclusive.

Who are More Likely to Get Whipple’s disease?

Middle-aged Caucasian men are more prone to this disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Whipple’s Disease

Symptoms vary a great deal.

Classic signs and symptoms of Whipple’s disease include

  • Periodic joint pain with or without swelling precedes all other symptoms
  • Chronic Diarrhoea (with or without blood)
  • Decreased body weight
  • Gastric pain and bloating
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Anaemia

Less common signs and symptoms of Whipple’s disease include

  • Skin darkening
  • Lymph node enlargement
  • Incessant cough
  • Chest pain and discomfort
  • Painful swelling of the membrane surrounding the heart
  • Heart failure

Neurological symptoms that occur in patients with Whipple’s disease almost resemble the symptoms of a neurodegenerative disorder. They are:

  • Problems of vision
  • Decreased memory and cognitive abilities
  • Numbness of face
  • Headache
  • Twitching and weakness of the muscle
  • Difficulties in Gait

In exceptional cases cardiac, neurological and pulmonary symptoms precede gastric symptoms.

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