If you or anyone you know has been diagnosed with celiac disease, there may be many questions on your mind. We help you with the answers to understand the condition better.
Celiac disease is a genetic, autoimmune disorder in which people are unable to eat foods that contain gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye), as this causes an immune reaction and leads to damage of the small intestine. As time passes, this reaction causes inflammation that can damage the lining of your small intestine. As your small intestine is responsible for the absorption of food and nutrients in your body, the damage to its lining can lead to malabsorption of nutrients.
The specific cause of celiac disease is not yet known, but this condition has been found to be hereditary. People who have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, etc.) with celiac disease have a 1 in 10 risk of getting affected by the disorder. Also, people who have Type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease, Down syndrome, or Turner syndrome are at a higher risk of developing celiac disease.
It is estimated that 1 in 100 people worldwide are affected by celiac disease, and people of all ages can develop this disorder. This disease is a lifelong condition, but you can manage it well by making some permanent modifications in your diet. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with celiac disease, confronting it can be confusing and even scary. But there is no need to panic; instead, being aware about the condition can help you deal with it and manage the symptoms effectively. Here are some frequently-asked questions about celiac disease that might have crossed your mind too.
The blood test that you got done is just the first step in diagnosing celiac disease. This test tries to find elevated levels of autoantibodies (a type of protein) that cause harm to your body’s healthy cells and tissues by accident. If your blood test is positive, your doctor is most likely to recommend an endoscopy to determine if you have the disease for sure. An endoscopy is a non-surgical procedure in which a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera attached onto it is used to look inside your stomach and thus confirm the results. During this procedure, your doctor will collect biopsies (samples of the intestinal tissue) in order to examine them for any damage.
The symptoms of celiac disease often do not present themselves in patients for a long time, making it a difficult disorder to diagnose. In some cases, people with celiac disease do not experience any symptoms at all. But this does not mean that there are very few symptoms of the condition. Rather, there are around 300 symptoms which are known to occur in people who have this disease. The typical signs of celiac disease include diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain, constipation and other gastrointestinal problems, but a majority of the patients experience little to no digestive symptoms. Due to such symptoms, celiac disease is often mistaken as an ordinary gastrointestinal issue and may remain untreated. In addition, people with this condition might experience unexplained anemia, fatigue, joint pains, depression or anxiety, acid reflux, and damage to dental enamel. 15 to 25 percent of people with celiac disease also get a rash-like itchy, blistering skin condition known as dermatitis herpetiformis. This skin disorder is also caused due to gluten intolerance, and usually occurs on the knees, elbows, scalp, buttocks, and torso.
There is no single definite cause of celiac disease. But doctors have determined that it is a genetically inherited disorder. In addition, an over-responsive immune system, and individual environment can act as triggers of this disease. Extreme stressors like pregnancy, a viral infection, or surgery can also cause celiac disease in people who are genetically predisposed to develop this autoimmune condition.
Yes, celiac disease affects people of all ages, and a considerable number of children suffer from this disorder. Similar to adults, children are at an increased risk of developing celiac disease if they have type 1 diabetes, Down syndrome, Williams syndrome, Turner syndrome, autoimmune thyroid disease, or a relative with this disorder. For kids above 3 years of age with one or more of these risk factors, testing is recommended for celiac disease, even if they might not be experiencing any symptoms. In children, malabsorption that occurs due to celiac disease can affect their growth and development. Also, the intestinal irritation can cause stomach ache, especially after they eat. Your child might experience the symptoms of celiac disease at any time in life. While some children get the symptoms when they are exposed to gluten for the first time, others may develop symptoms after consuming gluten products after having had no reaction to this for years.
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