Do you experience digestive problems, fatigue, skin rashes and other ailments when you eat gluten? You may have celiac disease. Learn the symptoms, risk factors and how to treat it in this highly informative blog by one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians, Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP.
What causes celiac disease?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. When people who are allergic to gluten eat foods that contain it, 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. When the villi get damaged, the person cannot absorb nutrients properly. Celiac disease can develop at any age but the later the age of diagnosis, the greater the chance of developing an additional autoimmune disorder.
10 facts about celiac disease:
1. Digestive symptoms are not the only symptoms
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
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 you are 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 people with celiac disease. Here are some suggestions:
- Celiac Disease Foundation
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- Celiac Support Association
To read Dr Adler’s blog in full, click here.