Celiac disease refers to a genetic digestive disorder caused by an aggressive reaction to gluten. The disease is also referred to as gluten-sensitive enteropathy or sprue. Celiac disease occurs when one eats foods with gluten. Gluten is classified as a protein that can be found in wheat, rye, and even barley. Celiac disease causes a wide range of symptoms like digestive issues, nutrient deficiency, and skin issues. You can either have celiac gluten sensitivity or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Celiac gluten sensitivity is what leads to celiac disease. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity causes only mild gluten sensitivity. Eating gluten when you have celiac disease triggers an immune response in the small intestines. As a result, the small intestine becomes inflamed and can get damaged. This damage happens over time leading to malabsorption. This leads to complications like weight loss, diarrhea, fatigue, and even anemia. In children, it can lead to growth and development issues. Celiac disease has no cure. The only way to manage the symptoms is to stick to a gluten-free diet.
Types of Celiac Disease
The Celiac Disease Foundation estimates that one in a hundred people is diagnosed with celiac disease with a majority of cases running in families. There are different types of celiac disease. Types of Celiac Disease includes but are not limited to:
Classical Celiac Disease
It is the most common and occurs early on in life. People with classic celiac disease will have symptoms like weight loss, fatigue, diarrhea, and appetite loss. All these symptoms point to nutrient absorption issues in the small intestines. In children, classic celiac disease causes delayed growth and puberty.
Non-Classical Celiac Disease
People with non-celiac disease present only mild gastrointestinal symptoms. There is usually no symptom to show that one is suffering from nutrient absorption issues. Someone can even have completely unrelated symptoms. The symptoms may include abdominal pain, migraines, and bloating. In some cases, one may have chronic fatigue, iron-deficiency anemia, numbness, and tingling in the hands and feet. Other symptoms include reduced bone mass (osteoporosis) leading to fractures, mineral and vitamin deficiency.
Silent Celiac Disease
Silent celiac disease doesn’t cause any gastrointestinal symptoms or nutrient deficiencies. Damage is however still occurring in the small intestines. Switching to a gluten-free diet should improve your health in general.
Potential Celiac Disease
With potential celiac disease, a biopsy test will return inconclusive results. However, you will have the antibodies associated with celiac disease in the blood.
Refractory or Non-Responsive Celiac Disease
If you suffer from celiac disease, switching to a gluten-free diet is the best way to manage the symptoms. For some people, however, this does not work. This condition is a refractory coeliac disease or non-responsive celiac disease (RCD). RCD is a rare disease that increases your risk of certain cancers like small bowel cancers.
Again, Types of Celiac Disease can vary and are very vast in their signs, especially in the symptoms of celiac disease in adults!
Symptoms and Signs of Celiac Disease – Symptoms of Celiac Disease in Adults
Celiac disease manifests differently in both children and adults – this means the symptoms of celiac disease in adults will vary from those signs of celiac disease in children. Symptoms and signs of celiac disease also differ depending on the disease progression. In adults the most common signs celiac disease may include:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
Sometimes, some symptoms of celiac disease in adults may cause things that aren’t related to gastrointestinal issues. Signs and symptoms include:
- Anemia caused by iron deficiency
- Bone issues like bone density loss and bone softening
- Blistery and itchy skin
- Chronic headaches
- Mouth ulcers
- Nervous system injury resulting in tingling and numbness of the hands and feet
- Reduced spleen functioning
- Joint pain
Children who have this disease will have almost the same digestive symptoms as adults. They include:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation and gas
- Swelling of the belly
- Foul-smelling, pale stool
Over time, the disease leads to nutrient absorption issues. When that happens, the child will have symptoms like:
- Tooth enamel damage
- Weight loss
- Delayed growth in infants
- Development problems like short stature
- Delayed puberty
- Neurological damage leading to conditions like ADHD, learning disabilities, seizures, headaches, and loss of muscle coordination
Diagnosis of Celiac Disease
Most people with this disease don’t realize they have it until it’s too late – and then a diagnosis of celiac disease may not help your overall health. Damage to the intestinal lining is gradual and symptoms often vary from one person to another. As such, it can take several years for you to get a diagnosis. Celiac disease usually runs in families. The doctor will go through your family health history first. Celiac disease is common in people with certain health conditions. These include type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, autoimmune liver disease, and Down syndrome. If you have any of these conditions, it’s best if you ask for a test the next time you see a doctor. The diagnosis of celiac disease can include the following tests:
Blood test: Most people diagnosed with this disease will have specific antibodies in their blood. A blood test checks for these antibodies.
HLA genetic test: The test checks for HLA-DQ8 and HLA-DQ2 genes. If you have these genes, it’s very likely that you may have this disease or may develop it in the future.
Endoscopy: The test helps a doctor check for any damage to your small intestines. A small scope that has a camera goes into your mouth and down to your intestinal tract. The doctor will then take small tissue from the small intestine for a biopsy.
Treatment of Celiac Disease
Unfortunately, there is no cure – therefore there is no known cure or treatment for celiac disease. The best way is to manage the symptoms. This means switching to a gluten-free diet. Avoid foods that contain wheat or wheat flour. You also need to avoid other grains like rye, barley, farina, durum, malt, graham flour, and semolina.
This disease can lead to nutrient abortion problems. When that happens one may have certain deficiencies like:
- Vitamin D
If you have any of these deficiencies, the doctor will prescribe gluten-free supplements and multi-vitamins.
How to Live With this Disease
You may need to live with the condition all your life. Here are ways to manage the disease:
Avoid foods with gluten: This is the best way of managing this disease. Switching to a gluten-free diet can help manage and even improve the symptoms over time.
Take supplements and vitamins: Your doctor may prescribe supplements and vitamins if you have nutrient absorption problems. Take the supplements as prescribed. This can help reverse and slow down damage to your small intestines.
Eat a healthy diet: You can still eat a healthy diet free of gluten. A healthy well-balanced diet will promote healing of the small intestine and improve your symptoms.
- What is the difference between gluten intolerance and this disease? Gluten intolerance causes gastrointestinal distress when you consume gluten. This happens without the autoimmune response and malabsorption that occurs with this disease.
- I’ve been diagnosed; do I need to get the rest of my family tested? This disease is genetic, and as such, if you get diagnosed, the rest of your close family members must get tested for the same.
- Do I need to eat gluten before going for a blood test? Yes, a test can only confirm if you have this disease but only if there is gluten in your blood.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!