What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, which is a protein in wheat, rye and barley. It is hereditary, which means it runs in families and can develop at any age. When an individual with celiac disease eats gluten, their body will create an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks result in damage to the villi, or the small, fingerlike extensions that line the small intestine and help absorb nutrients. For children, this can lead to malabsorption, affecting growth and development.
The symptoms of celiac disease may be different for children and adults. Children are more likely to experience digestive symptoms, while adults are more likely to have various symptoms. Some of the most common signs may include:
- Abdominal bloating and pain.
- Weight loss.
- Iron-deficiency anemia.
- Bone or joint pain.
- Liver or biliary disorders.
- Dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin disease).
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How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
Some people with celiac disease may be asymptomatic, meaning they do not have any symptoms but are still experiencing damage to the villi in their small intestine. Because of this, celiac disease cannot be diagnosed based on symptoms alone. There are two blood tests that can be performed to detect this condition, including serology testing and genetic testing. If the results of these blood tests indicate that celiac disease is present, your doctor may like you to undergo additional testing which may include endoscopy or capsule endoscopy for a clearer understanding of the extent of damage to the villi.
Celiac Disease Treatment Options
The only way to manage celiac disease is to follow a strict gluten-free diet. This means that individuals should only consume food or beverage with less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten content. Adhering to a completely gluten-free diet allows for the damage to the villi in the small intestine to heal, as well as prevents future complications. For children, healing of the villi usually takes about 3-6 months, while healing for adults may take several years. Celiac patients should have annual visits with their GI team to assess their symptoms, as well as testing of blood levels or bone density to ensure that treatment is effective.
Because many people with celiac disease are deficient in vitamins and minerals, taking certain supplements including copper, folate, iron, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, vitamin K or zinc can be helpful to help balance nutrients in the body.
Your South Denver GI Team
At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Celiac Disease or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!
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