What is Tropical Sprue?

Sprue means malabsorption.

Tropical sprue

implies the regions where this disease is more prevalent (the tropical and the sub-tropical climates). People residing in such climates are known to develop problems with their small intestine’s lining that causes problems in absorbing the necessary vitamins and minerals that our body requires.

Causes of Tropical Sprue:

The exact causes of this condition that causes malabsorption are unknown. But, people who have been diagnosed with this sprue have been known to possess certain kinds of unwanted bacteria in their intestines that makes it swell.

  • So, this disease can be considered to be some form of a bacterial or viral infection. Deficiency of folic acid and rancid (decomposed) fat may also be the causes.
  • Adults living in tropical climates (Southeast Asia, Southern India and the Caribbean) are known to suffer the most with this disease. People traveling to these regions are also known to get affected.
  • This disorder is not often observed in children.

Symptoms of Tropical Sprue:

Because of malabsorption, our body will miss out on the important minerals and vitamins. This would initially lead to problems like mild fever, acute diarrhea and malise (general discomfort). These conditions would slowly progress during which period the following symptoms can be observed-

  • chronic diarrhea
  • weight loss
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • foul smelling stools
  • fatigue
  • abdominal cramps
  • muscle cramps
  • indigestion
  • paleness
  • numbness
  • irritability
  • excessive gas

Apart from the above mentioned symptoms, vitamin and calcium deficiencies can cause problems like anemia, hyperkeratosis, bruises and bone pain.

Celiac Sprue:

There is a lot of difference between celiac sprue and the sprue in tropical climates. The primary one being, intestinal inflammation. In celiac sprue, an autoimmune attack is known to inflame the intestines which is not what happens in people suffering from sprue in tropical climates.


The first thing to do to treat

tropical sprue

is to give fluids and electrolytes in plenty to substitute for the lost nutrients. Antibiotic therapy is also suggested.

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