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Celiac disease is a condition in which there is a chronic reaction to certain protein chains, commonly referred to as gluten, found in some cereal grains. This reaction causes destruction of the villi in the small intestine, resulting in malabsorption of nutrients.
The only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet, that is to avoid all foods that contain gluten. The gluten free diet is a lifetime requirement.
Symptoms of celiac disease can include some or all of the following:
- Recurring abdominal bloating & pain
- Chronic diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Pale, foul-smelling stools
- Unexplained anemia (low count of red blood cells)
- Bone pain
- Behavior changes
- Muscle cramps
- Delayed growth
- Failure to thrive in infants
- Pain in the joints
- Tingling numbness in the legs (from nerve damage)
- Pale sores inside the mouth, called apthous ulcers
- Painful skin rash, called dermatitis herpetiformis
- Tooth discoloration or loss of enamel
- Reproductive issues (miscarriages, infertility)
- Missed menstrual periods (often because of excessive weight loss)
- Celiac disease is common. It affects an average of one out of every 133 Americans, and up to one out of every 22 persons who have associated risk factors.
- On average, patients with celiac disease suffer symptoms for 11 years before they are correctly diagnosed.
- Celiac disease is twice as common as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis & cystic fibrosis combined.
- Approximately 50% of newly diagnosed adult celiac patients present with atypical symptoms.
- Celiac disease is often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome or lactose intolerance; up to a third of celiac patients have been previously diagnosed with IBS.
- Celiac disease meets the criteria for the World Health Organization for justifying general screening.
- Celiac disease has a 95% genetic predisposition.