I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2000, and a lot of changes have taken place since then. For those who are looking for general information on the disease, here is a brief overview.
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease which affects both children and adults. In people with celiac disease, the body reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, setting off an autoimmune reaction. This reaction causes the production of antibodies which attack and damage the small intestine. Specifically, damage is done to the villi which line the small intestine and are crucial to the absorption of nutrients.
This damage to the villi can result in diarrhea or constipation, weight loss, other gastrointestinal problems, malnutrition, and failure to thrive (in children). It also affects other organs in the body and can lead to irritability, poor concentration, fatigue, bone and joint problems, anemia, reproductive problems, depression, and problems of the nervous system.
Celiac disease is not an allergy. Allergies can be outgrown. As an autoimmune disease, celiac disease cannot be outgrown. There is no cure and there are currently no drugs to treat it. The good news is that it can be treated with a change in diet. People with celiac disease can lead healthy lives by completely avoiding gluten. Once on a gluten-free diet, the villi in the small intestines will heal over time.
Based on a prevalence study done by the Center for Celiac Research, it is believed that 1 in 133 people have celiac disease. Diagnosis is made through blood tests and small bowel biopsy. The celiac panel blood tests include tissue transglutaminase (tTG) and anti gliadin (AGA) tests. A positive tTG result is very suggestive of celiac disease. A positive AGA result can indicate celiac disease or wheat allergy.
For more information, visit the Center for Celiac Disease Research.
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