Celiac Disease or Gluten-Sensitive Enteropathy is a digestive disease that damages the villi in our small intestines that help us absorb nutrients from the food we take in. It can be passed down genetically, but if it is not treated before it turns severe, it can truly alter a life if not completely bring it severe suffering. In children, we recognize celiac disease by the symptoms that appear before they are two months old as infants. It may happen at any age, but it occurs when the body reacts badly to the intake of gluten- which mostly comes in the form of wheat, rye and barley. The gluten gives the body a destructive reaction where the nutrients don’t get absorbed by the villi, but rather destroys them, creating malnourishment and hard stool in infants. The symptoms of celiac disease in infants are they tend to vomit and have a swollen stomach often have diarrhea with a pungent odor.
The way to treat celiac disease is simply to provide the child with a gluten-free diet and keep them away from glutens for the rest of their lives. The healing of the villi can occur within months after implementing the strict gluten-free diet and feeding them gluten free foods. Parents should not jump to conclusions just by the symptoms alone but rather exercise proper caution in diagnosing their children through a series of tests:
Blood Tests – The signs the doctors look for here is the levels of autoantibody that actually react against the body’s own tissue and cells in the blood of the child. They search for high-levels of anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTGA) or EMA (anti-endomysium antibodies). There are cases where the results are given back negative but the child still retains celiac disease symptoms which may need more blood tests to confirm the actual cause.
Biopsy- This is an operational test where a piece of the small intestine is taken for tests. The purpose of the biopsy is to check for damages to the villi that maybe caused by the CD or symptoms of the celiac disease.
1. Dermatitis Herpetiformis – DH (dermatitis Herpetiformis) is a rash on the skin that occurs in 15-25% in people with celiac disease, having dermatitis herpetiformis does not necessarily mean a person has CD but it is a good way to determine if the person has it by taking out the glutens in the daily intake to check is any adverse reactions occur concerning the stomach pains. People with DH but no celiac disease should take antibiotics such as Dapsone to help stop the itching and blistering of their skin on their elbows, knees and buttocks since most people who have dermatitis herpetiformis do not have celiac disease. If a person has both then they should enter a gluten-free diet and handle their skin rashes separately with dapsone as the gluten-free diet only handles an internal condition.
2. Screening – The screening of the body for celiac disease is a test to look for auto antibodies in the blood since celiac disease is somewhat hereditary and may be carried over through the genes.
Celiac disease must always be handled with care when with children as it can play a psychological problem if constantly given attention, which can cause the child to be more towards being awkward to people than being a normal child around people. Parents should support the child and remember that a lot of other problems can occur should the child not be taken care of properly such as the possible inducing of lactose intolerance in the child or Crohn’s disease, which is an inflammation of the small intestine, and in some cases IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) may occur as a part of the lactose intolerance in children with celiac disease. The parents should keep them strictly in a gluten-free diet to ensure their life stays healthy.