Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins and lip balms.When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi - the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine. Villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the blood stream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food the eat.
Celiac Disease is both a disease of malabsortion – meaning nutrients are not absorbed properly – and an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. Celiac disease is genetic, meaning it runs in families. Sometimes the disease is triggered – or becomes active for the first time – after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress.
Symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person. Symptoms may occur in the digestive system or in other parts of the body. Digestive symptoms are more common in infants and young children and may include:
- abdominal bloating and pain
- chronic diarrhea
- pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
- weight loss
Irritability is another common symptom in children. Malabsorption of nutrients during the years when nutrition is critical to a child’s normal growth and development can result in other problems such as failure to thrive in infants, delayed growth and short stature, delayed puberty, and dental enamel defects of the permanent teeth.Adults are less likely to have digestive symptoms and may instead have one or more of the following:
- unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
- bone or joint pain
- bone loss or osteoporosis
- depression or anxiety
- tingling numbness in the hands and feet
- missed menstrual periods
- infertility or recurrent miscarriage
- canker sores inside the mouth
- an itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
People with celiac disease may have no symptoms, but can still develop complications of the disease over time. Long-term complications include malnutrition – which can lead to anemia, osteoporosis, and miscarriage, among other problems – liver diseases and cancer of the intestine.
Recognizing celiac disease can be difficult because some of its symptoms are similar to those of other diseases. Celiac disease can be confused with irritable bowel syndrome disease, diveriticulitis, intestinal infections, and chronic fatigue syndrome. As a result, celiac disease has long been under diagnosed or misdiagnosed. Our board certified physicians are aware of the many varied symptoms of he disease and now have more reliable blood tests available to help diagnose the disease properly.Blood Tests – People with celiac disease have higher than normal levels of certain auto antibodies – proteins that react against the body’s own cells or tissues – in their blood.If blood testing suggests the presence of tTGA and intestinal symptoms are present, an intestinal biopsy may be ordered and completed using a endoscope in our Premier Endoscopy Center. If dermatitis herpetiformis a skin biopsy from the area where dermatitis herpetiformis is present may be ordered. If the antibody tests from the blood are positive and the skin test has the typical findings of DH, an intestinal biopsy is not necessary.