What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten can lead to serious health problems. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed and are at rist for long-term health complications.

Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods and medicines that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems.

In addition to digestive problems, other signs and symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • Anemia, usually resulting from iron deficiency
  • Loss of bone density (osteoporosis) or softening of bone (osteomalacia)
  • Itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • Damage to dental enamel
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Nervous system injury, including numbness and tingling in the feet and hands, and possible problems with balance
  • Joint pain
  • Reduced functioning of the spleen (hyposplenism)
  • Acid reflux and heartburn

A gluten-free diet is essential, and the only treatment for managing celiac disease. In addition to wheat, foods that contain gluten include:

  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Durum
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Malt
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt (a form of wheat)
  • Triticale

Be sure to consult your doctor before trying a gluten-free diet. If you stop eating gluten before you’re tested for celiac disease, you may change the test results.

Celiac disease tends to run in families. If someone in your family has the condition, ask your doctor if you should be tested. Also ask your doctor about testing if you or someone in your family has a risk factor for celiac disease, such as type 1 diabetes.