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CELIAC DISEASE

Celiac disease is also called as coeliac disease, celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy. It is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder. It is a condition in which the undigested gluten leads to the damage of the small intestine. Celiac disease is a condition which affects 1 in 100 people worldwide. It is a hereditary disease and every 1 out of 10 people have a risk of developing this disease.

Gluten is a protein that is found in barley, wheat, rye and other grains. It is a protein that makes dough elastic and also gives a chewy texture. People suffering with celiac disease may be intolerant to gluten as the body overacts to the protein and damages the small finger-like projections called the villi which are present along the length of the small intestine. Once the villi are destroyed, absorption of nutrients from the food is reduced and the person suffers from malnutrition.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

People suffering from celiac disease may experience the following signs and symptoms.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia
  • Bloating
  • Brittle bones
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Infertility
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Stools may be frothy due to unabsorbed fats
  • Skin rash
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Unexplained weight loss

Not everyone suffering with celiac disease have the same symptoms. These symptoms may vary from one person to the other and may disappear until late adulthood. 15-25% patients with celiac disease may have an itchy and blistering skin rash on areas like elbows, knees and buttocks. The formation of rash may be a main sign of celiac disease.

Children suffering with celiac disease may have the following signs and symptoms.

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Behavioral problems
  • Loss of weight
  • Stunted growth
  • Delayed puberty
  • Anemic

CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS

The exact cause of the disease in not known. However, the following are the causes of celiac disease.

  • The cause of celiac disease develops due to an interaction between the genes, food and other environmental factors.
  • The feeding practices in infants, infections in the gastrointestinal tract and bacteria in the gut may contribute to the development of celiac disease in children.
  • Severe emotional stress also contributes to the development of celiac disease.
  • Some variations in genes may increase the risk of developing celiac disease in people.
  • People suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, Addison’s disease, Down’s syndrome or Turner’s syndrome may be at a risk of developing celiac disease.

COMPLICATIONS

The complications involved in celiac disease are:

  • Bone loss
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Dental defects
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Bowel cancer
  • Malnutrition
  • Low birth-weight infants
  • Lymphoma

DIAGNOSIS

The doctor performs a complete examination of the patient to identify the changes in the body. The doctor also requires the medical history of the patient. The following tests are performed to diagnose celiac disease.

  • Celiac disease is diagnosed by detecting antibodies in blood. These are proteins produced by the hyperactive immune system. When a gluten intolerant person has gluten, his body may overact and produce more number of antibodies and therefore there antibodies can be detected to confirm the diagnosis.
  • An endoscopy is performed in which a flexible tube with a camera mounted tip would be inserted into the digestive system to view the interior and retrieve a piece of your intestine for a detailed microscopic and laboratory examination.

TREATMENT

Celiac disease cannot be ignored. There is no cure for celiac disease. The best treatment is to remain on a gluten free diet.

  • A life-long strict diet should be maintained to manage celiac disease. In addition to wheat, even food that contains small amount of gluten should be avoided.
  • The doctor may suggest a dietician and the dietician may recommend a diet.
  • Vitamins and mineral supplements such as calcium, folate, vitamin D, vitamin K and zinc should be taken to treat celiac condition.
  • Regular follow ups help in managing the condition.

PREVENTION

Celiac disease cannot be prevented; however with the help of a gluten-free diet celiac disease can be treated and prevented from further complications.

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