Celiac Disease is an allergy to gluten, a grain protein found in breads, pastas and many other foods. This allergy primarily damages the small intestine which is part of the digestive tract, is approximately 20 feet long, and is located between the stomach and colon. It is the main organ in the body responsible for the absorption of nutrients, vitamins and minerals from foods into the bloodstream. This absorption is impaired in patients with celiac disease.
Who gets this disease?
It is most commonly found in people of Northern European descent. There is a strong hereditary component to this disease.
What are common symptoms?
Some of the most common symptoms include diarrhea, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, skin rashes, weight loss, anemia, fatigue, muscle and joint pain and delayed growth in children.
Some people have no symptoms.
How is it diagnosed?
In recent years blood tests have become much better in the detection of this disease. Blood work is usually the first step in identifying Celiac Disease.
The gold standard for making the diagnosis is an endoscopy with biopsy of the small intestine. This is a simple and painless procedure which typically lasts under 10 minutes.
How is it treated?
Currently the only treatment for celiac disease is strict avoidance of gluten.
Fortunately, with increasing recognition of this disease there are more and more gluten free foods available in supermarkets and restaurants.
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