Celiac disease is a genetic disorder affecting children and adults. People with celiac disease are unable to eat foods that contain gluten, which is found in wheat and other grains. In people with celiac disease, gluten sets off an autoimmune reaction that causes the destruction of the villi in the small intestine. Celiac sufferers produce antibodies to attack the gluten, but the same antibodies also attack the intestine, causing damage and illness. Finding the cause of this disease is a priority of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research.
Symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain, chronic fatigue, weakness, malnutrition, and other gastrointestinal problems. In children, the symptoms may include failure to thrive (an inability to grow and put on weight), irritability, an inability to concentrate, diarrhea and bloating.
Nearly one out of every 150 Americans suffer from celiac disease, according to a new study by the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research in Baltimore. The research indicates that celiac is twice as common as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and cystic fibrosis combined.
A blood test is now available to screen for the presence of specific gluten antibodies. A biopsy of the intestine (before and after beginning a gluten free diet) is needed to make a final diagnosis.
Untreatedceliac disease can be life threatening. Celiacs are more likely to be afflicted with problems relating to malabsorption, including osteoporosis, tooth enamel defects, central and peripheral nervous system disease, pancreatic disease, internal hemorrhaging, organ disorders (gall bladder, liver, and spleen), and gynecological disorders. Untreated celiac disease has also been linked an increased risk of certain types of cancer, especially intestinal lymphoma.
There are no drugs to treat celiac disease and there is no cure. But celiacs can lead normal, healthy lives by following a gluten free diet. This means avoiding all products derived from wheat, rye, barley, oats, and a few other lesser-known grains.
Source: University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research and Celiac.Com, a celiac support resource.