Celiac Disease
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What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease (also called celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is an autoimmune disease affecting the digestive tract. When people with celiac disease eat food with gluten—a type of protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats—it provokes an immune reaction that causes flattening and damage to the small protrusions (villi) in the small intestine that absorb nutrients.

The resulting smooth surface in the lining of the intestine inhibits the ability to digest and absorb nutrients in many, if not all, foods. As a result, people with untreated celiac disease can suffer from malnutrition and a host of symptoms caused by malnutrition. Thus, celiac disease is also classified as a disease of malabsorption.

The Digestive Tract
The Digestive Tract
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It is not known...

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop celiac disease with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing celiac disease. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Genetic Factors

Your chances of having celiac disease are greater if the condition runs in your immediate family. It is estimated that close relatives of people with celiac disease have a 5%-10% chance of developing the disease.

Ethnic Background

Celiac disease tends to be more common in people who are of European descent.

Medical Conditions

If you have another autoimmune disorder,...

Symptoms of celiac disease can vary in type and/or severity. Symptoms can start as soon as gluten is introduced into the diet, or they may not develop until adulthood. Children often have different symptoms than adults. Symptoms may not develop (or may be mild) if a large section of the intestine is undamaged. Malnutrition may produce the first signs of the condition, which are often the most serious. Some people with celiac disease have no symptoms of it. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal cramps, bloating, and gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Smelly, light-colored, oily stool
  • Change in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Bone problems, such as:
  • Osteoporosis , osteopenia (thinning of the bones)
  • Osteomalacia (poorly formed bones; known as rickets when due to...

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. Because the symptoms of celiac disease are often very similar to those of other conditions, it can be difficult to obtain an accurate diagnosis early on. However, early diagnosis of celiac disease is very important because the earlier you start the gluten-free diet, the less likely you are to have advanced damage to your intestinal tract. Maintaining a gluten-free diet is very important to help prevent complications caused by celiac disease.

Your doctor may suspect celiac disease:

  • In a child—if the child eats well but still shows signs of malnutrition (especially if there is a family history of the disease)
  • In an adult—if you have dermatitis herpetiformis (a gluten-sensitive skin rash), ...

There are no guidelines for preventing celiac disease. Ask your doctor about a screening test for you and your children if celiac disease runs in your family.

American Gastroenterological Association (AGA)

Address:

National Office
4930 Del Ray
Avenue Bethesda, MD 20814

Phone:

1-301-654-2055

Internet Address:

http://www.gastro.org

Description of Services Provided:

This site covers all gastrointestinal conditions, including celiac disease. Using the search option, you'll find the latest research news on this disease.

Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF)

Address:

13251 Ventura Blvd., Suite 1
Studio City, CA 91604-1838

Phone:

1-818-990-2354

Internet Address:

http://www.celiac.org

Description of Services Provided:

The CDF provides support, information, and assistance to people affected by celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis (CD/DH). The CDF also works...

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