10 Things You Need To Know About Celiac Disease

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Celiac disease

When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their immune system forms antibodies to gluten which then attack the intestinal lining.

This causes inflammation in the intestines and damages the villi, the hair-like structures on the lining of the small intestine that promote nutrient absorption.

Dr Lauren Adler

Dr Lauren Adler

When the villi get damaged, the person cannot absorb nutrients properly and ends up malnourished, no matter how much he or she eats. Celiac disease can develop at any age but a 1999 study found that the later the age of diagnosis, the greater the chance of developing another autoimmune disorder.

10 important facts about celiac disease you should be aware of:

1. Digestive symptoms are not the only symptoms of celiac disease

Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose because it affects people differently. The most common symptoms include:

  • Digestive problems (abdominal bloating, pain, gas, diarrhea, pale stools and weight loss)
  • A skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Iron deficiencyanemia (low blood count)
  • Musculoskeletal problems (muscle cramps, joint and bone pain)
  • Growth problems and failure to thrive(in children)
  • Tingling sensation in the legs (caused by nerve damage and low calcium)
  • Aphthous ulcers (sores in the mouth)
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Fatigue
  • Osteoporosis

2. More people have celiac disease than Crohns disease, colitis and cystic fibrosis combined

An estimated 3 million people in the U.S. are affected by celiac disease.

3. Celiac disease is hereditary

People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease.

4. Certain people are at higher risk of developing celiac. These include people with:

  • Down Syndrome
  • Type I Diabetes
  • IgA deficiency
  • Autoimmune thyroiditis
  • Williams Syndrome
  • Turners Syndrome

5. Celiac disease is diagnosed in two stages.

First, your doctor will perform a blood test.  If this test is positive, it is necessary to then perform an intestinal biopsy.

6. Celiac disease is a life long issue. There is no cure.

The only treatment for celiac is avoidance of foods containing gluten.

7. 83% of Americans with celiac disease are undiagnosed

With 2½ million people in the U.S. undiagnosed for celiac disease, there is a critical need to raise awareness and funds for diagnosis, treatment and research for a cure.

8. The majority of patients respond very well to a strict gluten free diet.

Parents have noticed increase energy and a better sense of well being with their children adhere to the diet.

9. Consuming the smallest amount of gluten can cause serious problems for people with celiac.

This includes some vitamin and nutritional deficiencies.

10. If your child is diagnosed with celiac disease, it is important to learn what foods are ok and which aren’t.

Your doctor can teach you which foods contain gluten. Remember, it is important to read labels and order wisely when you are out to dinner.

To learn more about celiac disease

There are several websites and support groups which are available to help you navigate through the lifestyle changes required for children with celiac disease. Here are some suggestions:

 

By Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.

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About the Author: ML Ball