What is mouth sprue?


Know the basics

What is mouth sprue?

Mouth sprue, also known as mouth sore and tropical sprue, is caused by inflammation of your mouth. This swelling makes it more difficult for you to absorb nutrients from food. This is also called malabsorption

If you suffer from malabsorption, you’re not getting enough vitamins and nutrients in your diet. This can cause a number of different symptoms.

How common is mouth sprue?

Mouth sprue is common. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of mouth sprue?

The common symptoms of mouth sprue are

  • Abdominal cramps;
  • Diarrhea, which may get worse on a high-fat diet;
  • Excessive gas;
  • Indigestion;
  • Irritability;
  • Muscle cramps;
  • Numbness;
  • Paleness;
  • Weight loss.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes mouth sprue?

The exact cause of mouth Sprue is not known. It is an acquired disorder that may be related to environmental and nutritional factors, or mouth Sprue may be related to an infectious organism (either viral or bacterial), dietary toxin, parasitic infestation, or a nutritional deficiency such as folic acid.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for mouth sprue?

Tropical sprue is rare unless you live in or visit tropical areas. Specifically, it generally occurs in the tropical areas of:

  • The Caribbean;
  • India;
  • South Africa;
  • Southeast Asia.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is mouth sprue diagnosed?

Your doctor will order a series of tests to rule out these conditions. If your doctor can’t find a reason for your symptoms, and you live or have visited a tropical area, they may assume you have tropical sprue.

One way to diagnose tropical sprue is to look for signs of the nutritional deficiencies it causes. Tests for damage caused by malabsorption include:

  • bone density test
  • complete blood count
  • folate level
  • vitamin B12 level
  • vitamin D level

Your doctor may also use an enteroscopy to confirm your diagnosis. During this test, a thin tube is inserted through your mouth into your gastrointestinal tract. This allows your doctor to see any changes in the small intestine.

During the enteroscopy, a small sample of tissue may be removed. This removal process is called a biopsy, and the sample will be analyzed. If you have tropical sprue, there may be signs of swelling in the lining of your small intestine.

How is mouth sprue treated?

Mouth sprue is treated with antibiotics. This kills the bacteria overgrowth that results in this condition. Antibiotics may be given for a period of two weeks or one year. For example:

  • Tetracycline;
  • sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim (Bactrim);
  • oxytetracycline;
  • ampicillin.

The dosage will vary depending on your symptoms and response to treatment.

Your doctor will prescribe you therapy to replace the vitamins, nutrients, and electrolytes that your body is lacking. You may be given:

  • Fluids and electrolytes;
  • Iron;
  • Folic acid;
  • Vitamin B12.

Folic acid should be given for at least three months. You may improve quickly and dramatically after your first large dose of folic acid. Folic acid may be enough to improve symptoms on its own. Vitamin B12 is recommended if your levels are low or symptoms last for more than four months. Your doctor may also prescribe antidiarrheal medications to control symptoms.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage mouth sprue?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with mouth sprue:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise can help improve your strength, muscle tone, balance and coordination. Swimming or other water exercises are good options if you’re bothered by heat.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Results of small studies suggest that a diet low in saturated fat but high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in olive and fish oils, may be beneficial. But further research is needed.
  • Relieve stress. Stress may trigger or worsen your signs and symptoms. Yoga, tai chi, massage, meditation or deep breathing may help.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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