Learn About Celiac Disease

On this page you will find information on the following.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease (CD) is not a food allergy.  Gluten intolerance, gluten-sensitive enteropathy, coeliac or celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder caused by an abnormal immune response to proteins found in gluten. It can be inherited.  The cause is unknown. 

Gluten occurs naturally in wheat, rye barley, kamut, tritical, spelt, eikhorn, possibly oats, and some other grains. Eating gluten damages the villi (finger-like projections) in the small intestines of celiac patients. This prevents the body from absorbing nutrients in food and causes symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss and malnutrition. If left untreated, it can cause osteoporosis, organ disorders, gynecological problems and cancer, especially intestinal cancer.

How is CD Diagnosed?

Celiac disease has been called the "Great Mimic" in gastroenterology because many of its symptoms mimic other disorders, such as Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome or reflux.  It is often misdiagnosed or overlooked. 

Celiac disease is most often diagnosed by performing a biopsy of the lining of the small intestine. If the villi are found to be damaged, the patient is placed on a gluten free diet for about six months, and then is biopsied again. The antibody blood tests endomysial, reticulin (IgA), and gliadin (IgG and IgA) may also be performed.

Is there a cure?

There is no cure for celiac disease.  It is a lifelong condition.

How is Celiac Disease Treated?

Celiac Disease requires a lifelong elimination of gluten from the diet. Buckwheat, corn and rice are on the safe grain list for celiacs. Many celiacs also suffer from lactose intolerance and food sensitivities or allergies.

If you have celiac disease, the good news is that by following the proper diet, most often you can reverse the damage caused to your body and live a healthy life again. However, you'll have to stay on the gluten-free diet for the rest of your life. If you cheat on occasion and eat gluten, you may cause more damage without experiencing any symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?

The symptoms of Celiac Disease are so varied that it is often said there is no such thing as a "typical celiac."  Over 200 symptoms have been identified.  Not all people have the same symptoms, and some people have none.  Even if a person has no symptoms, the small intestine is still being damaged.  The severity and number of symptoms depends on how long the person has had the disorder, how long it has gone undiagnosed and the amount of damage that has occurred.  Symptoms...

Long-Term Conditions Resulting From Untreated CD

If left untreated, CD can be life threatening. Some long-term conditions include:

Statistics

Dermatitis Herpetiformis

The skin manifestation of celiac disease. It is characterized by a severe rash on the face, head, elbows, knees and buttocks which can be extremely itchy and blistering. Physicians recommend people with Dermatitis Herpetiformis should follow a gluten-free diet, although symptoms may not subside for up to six months.

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