By definition, celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disorder in which the body creates antibodies to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.
Over time, as the body produces these antibodies, the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged, causing the intestine to become inflamed, in turn making it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients.
Diagnosing celiac disease
The first way to detect if you have celiac disease is to have your gastroenterologist examine the symptoms you have been experiencing. Symptoms of celiac disease include:
- Digestive issues such as abdominal bloating, pain, pale stools, diarrhea, gas and weight loss
- Muscle cramps, joint and bone pain
- Skin rashes
- Tingling sensations in the legs
- Mouth sores
- Missed menstrual periods
- Headaches and fatigue
- Acid reflux and heartburn
After your gastroenterologist assesses your symptoms, he or she will take a look at your medical history and administer a blood test to measure the levels of antibodies and iron (indicating anemia, which can occur with celiac disease) in your system. Sometimes a stool sample is used to evaluate how your body is absorbing fat. In addition, your doctor may take a biopsy from your small intestine to survey any damage to the intestinal lining (villi).
Why do I have celiac disease?
One important problem with celiac disease is, though we know what is happening biologically in the body to cause symptoms, the precise cause of why a person develops celiac disease is still unknown. With that said, there are a few things that can increase your risk for developing the disease.
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
- Type 1 diabetes
- Down syndrome or Turner syndrome
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Microscopic colitis
Celiac disease can also leave a person susceptible to other health problems including:
- Miscarriage or infertility
- Birth defects
- Growth deficiencies in children
Treatment for celiac disease
Because gluten is the main culprit for symptoms experienced by those suffering from celiac disease, it is most important to follow a gluten-free diet. By eliminating gluten from your diet, this usually will significantly improve the condition and relieve symptoms, also allowing the villi to heal themselves.
Keep in mind, for those with celiac disease, this is not a quick fix but rather a lifetime commitment to maintaining a gluten-free diet. In some cases in which the villi is severely damaged, patients may have to receive intravenous nutrition supplements.
If you or someone you love is experiencing signs of celiac disease, give the professionals at Hunterdon Gastroenterology Associates a call today at (908) 483-4000 to schedule your next appointment.