Celiac disease is also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy and celiac sprue. It is an autoimmune gastrointestinal disorder that causes damage to the lining of the small intestine when gluten-containing foods are eaten. Gluten is a protein that is found in barley, wheat, and rye.
There are various symptoms of celiac disease:
- Abdominal bloating, gas, pale stools, weight loss, diarrhea
- Sores in the mouth
- Tingling sensation in the legs
- Dermatitis herpetiformis (skin rash)
- Muscle cramps and bone pain
The cause of celiac disease is a defect in the body’s immune system. When gluten-containing foods are eaten, the immune cells of the body attack the gluten protein. In the process, they damage the villi (projections) of the small intestine. Thus, the body’s ability to take nourishment from the food eaten is diminished. Consequently, celiac disease causes malnourishment.
Risk Factors And Complications
Factors that increase one’s risk of developing celiac disease are:
- Close relatives with celiac disease
- Presence of HLA-DQ2 gene and HLA-DQ8 gene
- Suffering from an autoimmune disorder such as primary biliary cirrhosis, Type I diabetes mellitus, and thyroid disease
Suffering from celiac disease makes one vulnerable to developing other health issues, such as:
- Birth defects such as neural tube defect or incorrect formation of spine
- Retarded growth in children
- Intestinal cancer
Tests And Diagnosis
Screening of people at risk of developing celiac disease prevents the problem from worsening. The following categories of people should be screened:
- Children (older than 3 years) and adults with symptoms of celiac disease
- First degree relatives of patients suffering from celiac disease, such as parents, siblings, or children
- People suffering from a related autoimmune disorder
The most frequently used blood test for detecting celiac disease is the tTg-IgA test. During this test, one must not be on a gluten-free diet. If this test shows that one has celiac disease, a biopsy of the small intestine is recommended to confirm the diagnosis.
An endoscopic biopsy is done by a gastroenterologist and the procedure does not require an overnight stay at a hospital. The tissue of the small intestine is extracted and checked under a microscope to see if the damage is similar to that expected in celiac disease.
The sole treatment for celiac disease is living on a gluten-free diet for life. Once gluten has been completely removed from the diet, the symptoms subside within a few days. Usually, the villi heals within 6 months. Gluten-free foods include brown rice, quinoa, sweet rice, potato flour, lentils, xanthan gum, and corn flour.
If the villi is damaged beyond repair, nutritional supplements are given through an IV.
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