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Definition:

Tropical sprue is a condition affecting the absorption of nutrients (malabsorption ) that is common in the tropics and subtropics.



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

The cause of this disease is unknown, but it may be caused by an infection. The condition affects residents of or visitors to the tropics. Risk factors are:

  • Living in the tropics
  • Long periods of travel to tropical destinations


Symptoms:

In children, sprue leads to:



Signs and tests:

Treatment:

Treatment begins with plenty of fluids and electrolytes. Replacement of folate, iron, vitamin B12, and other nutrients may also be needed. Antibiotic therapy with tetracycline is given at the beginning of treatment.

Oral tetracycline is usually not prescribed for children until after all permanent teeth have appeared. It can permanently discolor teeth that are still forming.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

The outcome is expected to be good with treatment.



Complications:

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are common complications.



Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if:

  • Tropical sprue symptoms get worse or do not improve with treatment
  • You develop new symptoms
  • You have diarrhea or other symptoms of this disorder for a long period of time, especially after spending time in the tropics


Prevention:

Other than avoiding living in or traveling to tropical climates, there is no known prevention for tropical sprue.




Review Date: 2/20/2008
Reviewed By: Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis, School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100