What is Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is a genetic disorder affecting children and adults. People with celiac disease are unable to eat foods that contain gluten, which is found in wheat and other grains. In people with celiac disease, gluten sets off an autoimmune reaction that causes the destruction of the villi in the small intestine. People with celiac disease produce antibodies that attack the intestine, causing damage and illness. Finding the cause of this disease is a priority of The University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research.
What are the symptoms of celiac disease?
Symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain, chronic fatigue, weakness, malnutrition, and other gastrointestinal problems. In children, the symptoms may include failure to thrive (an inability to grow and put on weight), irritability, an inability to concentrate, diarrhea and bloating. Further, people affected by Celiac Disease may experience extra intestinal symptoms that involve many systems and organs including bones (osteoporosis, arthritis, and joint pain), blood (anemia and bleeding), reproductive system (infertility and reoccurring abortion), nervous system (chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, dementia), and behavioral changes.
How common is celiac disease?
Nearly one out of every 133 Americans suffer from celiac disease, according to a new study by the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research in Baltimore. The research indicates that celiac is twice as common as Crohn's disease, ulceric colitis and cystic fibrosis combined.
How is celiac diagnosed?
A blood test is now available to screen for the presence of specific antibodies. A biopsy of the intestine (before beginning a gluten free diet) is needed to make a final diagnosis.
What are the long-term effects of celiac disease?
Untreated celiac disease can be life threatening. Celiacs are more likely to be afflicted with problems relating to malabsorption, including osteoporosis, tooth enamel defects, central and peripheral nervous system disease, pancreatic disease, internal hemorrhaging, organ disorders (gall bladder, liver, and spleen), and gynecological disorders. Untreated celiac disease has also been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, especially intestinal lymphoma.
What is the treatment for celiac disease?
There are no drugs to treat celiac disease and there is no cure. But celiacs can lead normal, healthy lives by following a gluten free diet. This means avoiding all products derived from wheat, rye, barley, oats, and a few other lesser-known grains.
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