What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a disease that affects the small intestine. This disease has a very severe effect on the digestive system and disturbs the process of absorption of vital nutrients from the food. In this disease, people develop a resistance for gluten. Gluten is a kind of protein that is present in foods like barley, rye, and wheat.
When people suffering from this disease consume food containing gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging the villi in their small intestine. Villi refers to the lining of the small intestine. Over a period of time, this damage leads to malnourishment as the nutrients in the food are not absorbed.
At What Age Celiac Disease Occurs?
Celiac disease can occur at any age. It can happen to infants, young children, as well as adults. It is a genetic disease. In some cases, this disease can set off after:
- Viral infection
- Extreme emotional stress
Caucasians are most likely to suffer from it. Also it is quite common in people who have genetic disorders like the Turner syndrome and the Down syndrome.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
The symptoms of celiac disease include general signs like bloating, abdominal pain, and chronic diarrhea. These symptoms differ depending on factors like age, eating habits, and other similar factors.
Children and infants are likely to show the following signs:
- Weight loss*
- Foul smelling stool
Fatigue, anemia, arthritis, mouth sores, osteoporosis, depression, irregular menstrual periods, seizures, joint pain, tingling sensation in feet and hands, as well as dermatitis herpetiformis are the symptoms that can be seen in adults.
It is possible that people suffering from celiac disease may not show any symptoms initially but they can develop severe complications over a period of time.
How to Cure* Celiac Disease?
Following a diet that is gluten-free is the only way to cure* this disease. Foods with high level of gluten like wheat, semolina, malt, farina, pasta, and certain processed foods should be avoided. Doctors usually refer a dietician to the patient to come up with a diet plan that is free from gluten.
Rice, fish, vegetables, and fruits should be included in the diet as these are free from gluten. It is also important for celiac disease patients to make it a habit to read the ingredients label of the food they eat. Certain medicines and products like play dough and lipsticks also contain gluten.
Patients suffering from celiac disease need to stay away from gluten for the rest of their life because a small quantity of gluten too can affect their small intestine. The intestine starts healing once the patient begins to follow this diet. Improvements can be seen within a few days of following the diet. It may take around six months for children to heal while adults may require several years. In case of severe damage to the small intestine, steroids may be recommended by the doctor.
What is the Testing Process for Celiac Disease?
The testing process in diagnosing the disease includes:
- Blood Test: It is done to find the level of certain antibodies that are found in a person suffering from this disease.
- Endoscopy: This is done to examine the small intestine and obtain a small sample if it. This sample is then analyzed to see if the villi are damaged.
- Capsule Endoscopy: In this process, a small camera placed inside a pill is used to get the pictures of the small intestine. These pictures are passed to a recorder and the samples are examined.
Many institutes like the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Diabetes conduct research on this disease. New ways of diagnosing the disease are studied in the research. They also conduct awareness programs which provide latest and comprehensive information about different aspects of the disease. According to a research done by the National Institutes of Health, one out of 141 people have this disease in US.