Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that involves the immune system reacting to gluten. Gluten is a general name for a group of proteins in cereals such as wheat, barley, and rye.
In a person with celiac disease, exposure to gluten causes inflammation in the gut. Repeated exposure gradually damages the small intestine, which can lead to problems absorbing minerals and nutrients from food.
Celiac disease affects around 1 in 100 people worldwide, and many have the condition without knowing it. As many as 2.5 million people in the United States may have undiagnosed celiac disease.
The only way for someone with celiac disease to avoid the symptoms is to keep gluten out of their diet.
Below, we explore the symptoms of celiac disease in detail, as well as the diagnostic process, the risk factors, and gluten-free diets.
The symptoms of celiac disease can range from mild to severe. They can change over time, and they vary from person to person.
Some people have no symptoms or only experience them later in life. A person may not know that they have celiac disease until they develop a nutrient deficiency or anemia.
Children are more likely to develop digestive symptoms than adults. These symptoms include:
- abdominal pain
- chronic diarrhea or constipation
- pale stool with a foul smell
- fatty stool that floats
Symptoms of celiac disease that are not digestive can include:
- weight loss
- depression or anxiety
- joint pain
- mouth sores
- a rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
- nerve damage in the extremities, called peripheral neuropathy, which can cause tingling in the legs and feet
People with celiac disease may develop nutrient deficiencies as damage to the gut gradually limits the absorption of nutrients such as vitamins B12, D, and K. For the same reason, a person may also develop iron deficiency anemia.
Beyond malnutrition, celiac disease can also cause damage to the large intestine and more subtle damage to other organs.
Variations in symptoms may depend on:
- damage to the small intestine
- the amount of gluten consumed
- the age at which gluten consumption began
- how long the person was breastfed, as symptoms tend to appear later in those who were breastfed for longer
Health issues such as surgery, pregnancy, infections, or severe stress can sometimes trigger celiac disease symptoms.
Symptoms in children
When celiac disease limits or prevents a child’s body from absorbing nutrients, this can lead to developmental or growth problems, including:
- failure to thrive, in infants
- delayed growth and short height
- weight loss
- damaged tooth enamel
- mood changes, including impatience or annoyance
- late-onset puberty
Switching to a gluten-free diet early can prevent these issues. Intestinal damage can begin to heal within weeks of removing gluten from the diet.
As time goes by, children may experience spontaneous remission and remain free from symptoms of celiac disease until later in life.
A doctor can often diagnose celiac disease by considering the medical histories of the person and their family and ordering tests such as blood tests, genetic tests, and biopsies.
Doctors check the blood for the presence of antibodies common in people with celiac disease, including antigliadin and endomysial antibodies. ………………. ………………. Continue Reading ………………. ……………….