Celiac Disease

Overview

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder. Gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye – causes an immune reaction that damages the intestines in those with the disease. While some may experience symptoms such as upset stomach and diarrhea, others may experience no symptoms at all. While there is currently no cure for Celiac disease, it can be managed through careful diet and nutrition. In addition, researchers are hard at work to develop enzymes to help Celiac sufferers digest gluten more easily.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

While some react to gluten immediately, other sufferers of Celiac disease present no symptoms. Some do not develop symptoms for several years and not all individuals experience the same symptoms. This can make the disease hard to diagnose. Common symptoms of Celiac disease include digestive discomfort such as gas, diarrhea, constipation and bloating. Due to the damage caused by the disease, symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, anemia, malnutrition and fatigue are also common. Sufferers may experience weakening bones and teeth, mouth sores, skin rashes, headaches, irritability and joint pain. While weight loss is common in Celiac sufferers, it can also lead to obesity in some.

Celiac disease is often first diagnosed with a blood test. Certain antibodies in the blood can indicate Celiac disease even when patients are asymptomatic. If blood tests indicate Celiac disease, endoscopy and biopsy may be performed to examine the extent of intestinal damage. Endoscopy allows doctors to visually check intestinal villi for damage, while biopsy removes a small amount of tissue for further examination. This can ultimately help in determining the course of treatment.

Causes

It is unknown exactly what causes Celiac disease. What is clear is that, in those with the disease, gluten triggers an immune response that causes the body to attack the villi and lining of the intestine. This, in turn, reduces the body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins and minerals from food. Several co-morbid conditions such as Down syndrome and thyroid disorder are also commonly found in those with Celiac disease. Scientists are still studying the link. In addition, Celiac disease has a genetic component, so doctors recommend testing for anyone with a family member who has been diagnosed with Celiac even if symptoms are not present. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment information . . .

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