Sprue is a disorder in which the intestines are unable to
absorb nutrients from food. It can cause loss of appetite, diarrhea, weight
loss, muscle cramps, pale skin, and bone pain.
Sprue occurs in
two forms: tropical and nontropical.
Tropical sprue affects people who live in
tropical areas. Its exact cause is not clear, but it likely results from a viral
or bacterial infection of the lining of the intestine and, possibly, poor
nutrition. Tropical sprue is treated by taking antibiotics for 3 months to 1
year along with vitamin supplements.
Nontropical sprue, usually
called celiac disease or celiac sprue, may begin to cause symptoms when foods containing gluten are introduced into the diets of infants. Some people may not have symptoms until later in life. This type of sprue is treated
by permanently adopting a strict gluten-free diet. This means a person cannot
eat foods that contain gluten, which is a form of protein found in wheat,
barley, and rye.