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Celiac Diagnostic Center - About

What is Celiac?

Celiac disease is caused by an allergic-like reaction to gluten that inflames the small intestine, hindering its ability to properly absorb nutrients. Gluten is a protein found in a variety of popular grains, including wheat, rye and barley. While gluten is found mainly in food, it can also be found in other products such as medicines and vitamins.

If a person with celiac disease takes foods containing gluten, they may suffer unpleasant symptoms like bloating and diarrhea. They may experience more serious health problems such as anemia, osteoporosis or infertility.

The only treatment: at this point in time is elimination of foods containing gluten.

Who is at Risk for Celiac?

Heredity plays a role is determining whether a person will develop celiac disease. If you have a close family member with celiac, you are more likely to develop the condition yourself. In fact, statistics indicate that, among people with a first-degree relative who has celiac disease, as many as 1 in 5 people may have it.

Autoimmune Disorders: If you suffer from type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or and microscopic colitis, you are more prone to have celiac disease.

Celiac disease can emerge after health events such as surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

What are the Symptoms of Celiac?

Symptoms of celiac disease are quite varied; not all sufferers report the same symptoms. However, the symptoms list can be divided into two: common symptoms and other symptoms that make diagnosis far more difficult to pinpoint.

Common celiac disease symptoms include:

  • Recurring abdominal bloating and pain
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool (known medically as steatorrhea)
  • Weight loss.

The wide variety of the conditions on the "other symptoms" list can make diagnosis of Celiac disease extremely difficult for physicians. In fact, because of the varied list of symptoms, patients are often misdiagnosed with other conditions.

Other celiac disease symptoms may include:

  • Bone pain or bone tenderness
  • Depression or anxiety
  • growth retardation in children
  • Fatigue
  • Gas
  • Infertility
  • Itchy skin rash
  • Joint pain
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Muscle cramps
  • Pale sores inside the mouth
  • Seizures
  • Tingling numbness in the legs
  • Tooth discoloration or loss of enamel
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Weight gain

How is Celiac Diagnosed?

Celiac disease is one of the most common chronic health disorders, yet one of the most under-diagnosed. As recently as a decade ago, doctors thought the condition was rare – affecting one 1 in 2,500 people. More recently studies reveal that about 1 in 133 people have celiac disease, but only 1 in 4,700 is ever diagnosed. According to the National Institutes of Health, celiac disease affects three million Americans.

Celiac disease is diagnosed through the use of blood tests, the appearance of skin rashes, and through the use of an intestinal biopsy.

Blood Tests: these can often detect antibodies to gluten, physicians believe the most conclusive diagnosis can be obtained by examination of an upper digestive tract tissue biopsy. At the Celiac Diagnostic Center, an onsite pathology lab offers experienced technicians for accurate diagnosis.

Breath Tests for carbohydrate malabsorption: malabsorption is a clinical term that encompasses defects occurring during the digestion and absorption of nutrients. The digestion or absorption of a single nutrient component may be impaired, as in lactose intolerance due to lactase deficiency. When a diffuse disorder, such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease affects the intestine, the absorption of almost all nutrients is impaired.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis: Approximately 15 to 25 percent of people with celiac disease suffer from an extremely itchy, blistering rash known as dermatitis herpetiformis (DH).  This rash is often the first sign of celiac disease since most people with DH have no digestive symptoms of celiac. DH is diagnosed through blood tests and a skin biopsy. If these tests are positive for DH, rash symptoms can be controlled with antibiotics. The intestinal version of celiac is not treated with antibiotics.

What are the Treatments for Celiac?

Unlike many instances where scientists have discovered a variety of ways to manage, if not cure, medical conditions, celiac disease has only one treatment – and no cure.

The only way to avoid the unpleasant symptoms of celiac disease is for sufferers to completely avoid ingesting products containing gluten.

While staying away from gluten isn't the easiest thing to do — gluten is commonly found in processed foods and cereals and many other grain-based products — there are many alternatives to gluten that can be satisfying, healthy and enjoyed by celiac sufferers. Consider potatoes, rice, soy, and corn. And, a visit to an online or local health food store will surely feature myriad gluten-free goodies that will make those with celiac disease forget all about wheat! For local gluten-free options: Gluten Free Atlantic & Cape May Counties