Causes and Symptoms of Whipple Disease



Whipple disease is a rare form of bacterial infection, which affects the joints and digestive system of the patient. The condition makes it difficult for the body to absorb fats and carbohydrates from the food by interfering with digestion. This can lead to malnutrition and a lack of essential nutrients and minerals in the body over time. The staff at a Los Angeles community clinic can help you determine if you are susceptible to Whipple disease.

In some cases, Whipple disease can also infect other organs, such as the eyes, heart, and brain. If not treated in time, the condition can become aggravated and may lead to death as well. That is why it is important to learn about the symptoms of the disease and consult with any of the nearest low-income health clinics to treat Whipple disease with a course of antibiotics.


Whipple disease is caused when a specific type of bacterium, known as Tropheryma whipplei, affects the mucosal lining of the small intestine. Gradually, the infection leads to the development of lesions on the inner wall of the intestine. Sometimes, the bacterial infection can also damage the fine hair-like projections lining the small intestine.

There is not much data on how Tropheryma whipplei bacteria are spread to humans, but it is believed that they are readily present in the environment. Interestingly, studies have found that not all individuals that carry the bacteria develop Whipple disease or any other kind of infection. Some researchers say that the root cause of the condition may be linked with a genetic defect in the immune system response of the patient. A family doctor at a Los Angeles community clinic may be able to help you understand your genetic predisposition of medical conditions.


As Whipple disease predominantly affects the small intestine, it leads to many kinds of digestive complications. The common symptoms may include diarrhea, weight loss due to low absorption of nutrients, stomach ache and cramping that worsens after meals, etc. Some patients also experience fatigue, weakness, and inflammation in the joints, particularly the ankles, knees, and wrists.

If the infection has spread to other parts of the body, the patient may also experience other symptoms like anemia, cough, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, darkening of the skin in areas that are exposed to the sun and scarred areas, chest pain, etc. The neurological signs and symptoms of Whipple disease may include vision problems, a lack of control of eye movements, memory loss, confusion, and difficulties in walking.

As these symptoms tend to develop slowly in most cases and can be triggered by other conditions as well, it is recommended to see a doctor as soon as you experience any kind of abnormal weight loss, persistent digestive problems, or joint pain. Whipple disease can be a potentially life-threatening condition, yet it can be treated effectively with antibiotic therapy by identifying the cause of your symptoms. Contact a Los Angeles low-income health clinic to learn more about Whipple disease.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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