Whipple's disease is a multi-system infectious bacterial disease that interferes with the body's ability to metabolize fats. The disorder can affect any system in the body, including the central nervous system, but usually occurs in the gastrointestinal system. Gastrointestinal symptoms may include diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, weakness, and abdominal bleeding and pain. Neurological symptoms may include abnormalities of eye and facial muscle movements, confusion, seizures, ataxia, memory loss, and vision impairment. Fever, cough, and joint soreness may also be present.
The standard treatment for Whipple's disease is a prolonged course of antibiotics.
Generally, antibiotic treatment to destroy the bacteria that caused the disease results in relief of symptoms. However, the disorder may be persistent despite sustained treatment with antibiotics. Relapses are frequent. With treatment, the disorder can be cured. Untreated, Whipple's disease is fatal.
The NINDS supports research on disorders that affect the central nervous system such as Whipple's disease. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases also supports research on disorders such as Whipple's disease. Much of this research is aimed at learning more about these disorders and finding ways to prevent, treat, and, ultimately, cure them.
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Last Modified March 22, 2011