Celiac disease, sometimes referred to as celiac sprue, is an autoimmune reaction to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. When gluten is consumed by someone with celiac, their immune system damages the villi found in the small intestine. The villi absorb nutrients from digested food.
Celiac is a genetic disorder and is often linked with other autoimmune disorders, including type one diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of celiac vary widely and are dependent upon the age of onset. Most celiac cases are diagnosed in childhood. Early diagnosis is important due to the ongoing risk of damage to the intestines.
Symptoms in children include abdominal pain and bloating, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, pale colored stool, delayed growth, short stature, delayed puberty, and poorly developed dental enamel.
Symptoms in adults include iron-deficiency anemia, joint pain, fatigue, seizures, ulcers of the mouth, itchy rashes, numbness in the hands and feet, and depression or anxiety. Women can may possibly have infertility problems and an increased risk of miscarriages.
Screening and Diagnosis
Coming to terms with celiac is difficult, because of the widely varied symptoms. Adding to the difficulty in recognizing the disease is the commonality of GI symptoms among many different conditions. In order to confirm celiac disease, your doctor will perform blood work and an intestinal biopsy.
Currently the only treatment for celiac disease is to avoid gluten completely. Gluten is hidden in many common products, so patients or their caregivers have to become experts at analyzing labels. Restaurants that offer gluten free products should have a dedicated space to prepare the gluten free dishes away from those that contain gluten.