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What is Tropical Sprue?

It is a malabsorption disease frequently found in the tropical regions including India. In this disease, the intestines fail to absorb nutrients and this leads to the deficiency of various essential elements. It is often seen in tourists traveling to tropical areas.

It is a rare disease more common in males and the average age group is 30-50 years.

What are the causes of Tropical Sprue?

The exact cause and development of the disease is not understood yet. It is believed to be due to any form of intestinal infection, which leads to injury and changes in the intestine. These changes affect the absorption of water and nutrients and symptoms of nutritional deficiencies occur. Most prominently, folic acid deficiency is seen.

What are the risk factors for Tropical Sprue?

  • Environment (Common in tropical regions)
  • Intestinal infections
  • Improper sanitation

What are the symptoms of Tropical Sprue?

  • Recurrent diarrhea
  • Malabsorption causing symptoms of anemia
  • Bulky foul-smelling stools
  • Weight loss
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Indigestion and gas problems

What are the complications of Tropical Sprue?

If left untreated, various manifestations can occur due to nutritional deficiencies:

  • Vitamin A deficiency can lead to eye problems like night blindness, dryness in eye and scaly skin
  • Anemia can occur due to deficiency of folic acid and vitamin B12. This type of anemia is known as megaloblastic anemia.
  • Numbness, tingling sensation, pain in the bone, etc. can occur due to Vitamin D deficiency
  • Increased bleeding tendency can occur due to lack of Vitamin K

How is Tropical Sprue diagnosed?

  • Endoscopy: This procedure helps to visualize the intestines and notice any changes.
  • Biopsy: A part of intestinal tissue is taken and tested for the presence of immune cells. The presence of immune cells suggests an infection.
  • Serum levels of various vitamins and minerals are tested
  • Stool examination

How is Tropical Sprue treated?

  • Antibiotics like Tetracycline are given
  • Folic acid and Vitamin B12 supplements
  • Other nutritional supplementation might be prescribed as needed

The prognosis of the disease is good and there are fewer chances of recurrence.

What are the lifestyle changes required to prevent Tropical Sprue:

  • Follow a low-fat diet
  • Drink clean water and maintain proper sanitation
  • Take proper supplementations

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