Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition, meaning your immune system attacks healthy tissues in your body. Celiac disease mainly affects the small intestine, but it can impact other parts of the body, too.
Overview and Symptoms
Celiac disease occurs when the lining of the small intestine is damaged by eating gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) and affects your digestion. This damage can lead to inflammation that makes it difficult to absorb vitamins and minerals.
Celiac disease is a genetic disease—it runs in families. It can start at any age and affects one percent of the US population, or approximately 3 million Americans. However, many cases of celiac disease remain undiagnosed or underdiagnosed.
The most common symptoms of celiac disease include:
- Excess gas
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal discomfort and pain
- Frequent fatigue
- Low vitamin and mineral levels
There is an increased risk of developing long-term complications if celiac disease goes undiagnosed and untreated.
Treatment at BIDMC
Celiac disease can be diagnosed through blood and genetic testing, as well as through endoscopy, a procedure when tissue from the small intestine is removed for biopsy.
A lifelong gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease. Although there are currently no medications or treatments available, gastroenterologists in the Celiac Center at BIDMC are leading research in new, non-dietary therapies.