What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that affects your digestive system and damages your small intestines. If you have celiac disease, your body is sensitive to gluten and your immune system reacts abnormally to foods you eat that contain gluten. Gluten is a protein found in foods and products that contain certain grains, such as wheat, oats, barley and rye.

The lining of your intestines is made of many small fingerlike bumps, called villi, that are responsible for digesting and absorbing nutrients. In celiac disease, the villi flatten out and are damaged or destroyed when exposed to gluten. This decreases the amount of surface area that is available to digest and absorb nutrients in the small intestine.

The symptoms of celiac disease vary among individuals and depend on the amount of gluten a person consumes. Symptoms can affect the digestive tract as well as other parts of the body. Common symptoms include excessive gas, abdominal bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. Some people who have celiac disease may have no symptoms.

Celiac disease, also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is far more common than once believed. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than two million people in the United States are affected by celiac disease. It commonly runs in families and in populations with other autoimmune diseases and genetic disorders (Source: NIDDK).

What’s the difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance?

Celiac disease is a serious form of gluten intolerance in which the body reacts to gluten by damaging the small intestine. Although the symptoms can be similar, celiac disease symptoms are generally more severe and long-lasting compared to the symptoms of milder forms of gluten intolerance. Most importantly, celiac disease causes actual damage to the small intestine and can cause complications in other body systems, such as anemia and osteoporosis. These problems are generally not seen in milder forms of gluten intolerance.

Left untreated, celiac disease can result in serious complications, such as malnutrition, small intestine cancer, and anemia. Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of celiac disease, such as excessive abdominal bloating, diarrhea or weight loss.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

The symptoms of celiac disease can be vague and similar to other conditions that affect the digestive system, such as diverticulosis or irritable bowel syndrome. Your symptoms may be mild or severe, and they may vary depending on the amount of gluten you eat. Symptoms of celiac disease affect your small intestines and can affect other parts of your body. Some people with Read more about celiac diseasesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes celiac disease?

The cause of celiac disease is not known. But celiac disease commonly runs in families and in people with certain genetic disorders and autoimmune diseases. A blood test can help diagnose the disease and determine whether you need a gluten-free diet.

What are the risk factors for celiac disease?

A number of factors increase your risk of developing celiac disease includi... Read more about celiac diseasecauses

TREATMENTS

How is celiac disease treated?

The primary treatment for celiac disease is eliminating gluten from your diet. Common foods that contain gluten include cereals, breads, pasta, and other foods or products that contain wheat, barley, oats or rye. Less obvious sources of gluten include:

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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