Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition, meaning that 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.
Celiac Disease Symptoms and Diagnosis
Celiac disease is a genetic disease — it runs in families. It can start at any age and may affect as many as 1 in 133 Americans. However, many cases of celiac disease remain undiagnosed or underdiagnosed.
Celiac disease occurs when the lining of the small intestine is damaged by eating gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), affecting your digestion. The damage to the small intestine caused by eating gluten can lead to inflammation that makes it difficult to absorb vitamins and minerals.
The most common symptoms of celiac disease include:
- Excess gas
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal discomfort and pain
- Frequent fatigue
- Low vitamin and mineral levels
Celiac disease can be diagnosed through blood and genetic testing, as well as upper endoscopy, in which tissue in the small intestine can be biopsied to confirm a celiac diagnosis.
There is an increased risk of developing long-term complications if celiac disease continually goes undiagnosed and untreated.
Celiac Disease Treatment at BIDMC
A lifelong gluten-free diet (GFD) is the only treatment for celiac disease. Although there are currently no medications or treatments available, gastroenterologists in the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are leading research in new, non-dietary therapies.
If you think you may have celiac disease, ask your doctor about testing. It is advised that you do not begin a gluten-free diet until you have received an official diagnosis of celiac disease. If you are diagnosed with celiac disease (or with non-celiac gluten sensitivity), seeing a dietitian who specializes in celiac disease
As more testing and research has been done for celiac disease, there are now several known categories of the disease, based on the types of symptoms or intestinal damage that occurs. Knowing which form of celiac disease you have is important information for you and your doctor.
The Digestive Disease Center offers multidisciplinary specialty care that includes physicians, surgeons and nurses as well as experts in nutrition.
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