Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of gluten leads to serious damage in the small intestine. Gluten is a combination of proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. Celiac disease is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two million Americans are undiagnosed and at risk for long-term health complications.
Celiac disease is hereditary, meaning that it runs in families. People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease themselves.
What are the health complications?
Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods or taking medications that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems. Long-term health conditions can include:
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Early onset osteoporosis or osteopenia
- Gall bladder malfunction
- Infertility and miscarriage
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Central and peripheral nervous system disorders
- Papillary thyroid cancer
- Additional autoimmune diseases
What are the symptoms
Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose because it affects people differently. There are more than 200 known signs and symptoms involving the digestive system and every other organ in the body. A significant percentage of people with celiac disease appear to have no symptoms at all. However, all people with celiac disease are at risk for serious long-term complications if they continue to consume gluten.
Adults are more likely to have:
- Unexplained anemia
- Bone or joint pain/arthritis
- Osteoporosis or osteopenia
- Liver and biliary tract disorders
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Migraines or seizures
- Infertility or recurrent miscarriage
- Dermatitis Herpetiformis
- Mouth ulcers/canker sores
Digestive symptoms are more common in infants and children. here are the most common symptoms found in children:
- Abdominal bloating and pain
- Chronic diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Irritability and behavioral issues
- Short stature/failure to thrive
- Delayed growth and puberty
- Dental enamel defects of the permanent teeth
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
How do I get diagnosed?
There are two steps to finding out if you have celiac disease: screening and diagnosis. You should always consult with a physician experienced with celiac disease to ensure a proper diagnosis.
Screening: There are several blood tests available that screen for celiac disease antibodies with high sensitivity. For these tests to work, you must be consuming gluten. (If blood test results suggest celiac disease, your physician will recommend a biopsy of your small intestine to confirm the diagnosis.)
Diagnosis: A diagnosis can be reached by undergoing an endoscopic biopsy during a procedure called an upper endoscopy. A biopsy is taken of the small intestine, which is then analyzed to see if there is any damage consistent with celiac disease.
If you think you might have Celiac Disease the doctors at Hunterdon Gastroenterology Associates can help! Please call to schedule an appointment today. 908-483-4000