Celiac disease, also called as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is a digestive disease that damages the villi of the intestine preventing the absorption of nutrients from the food we eat. It is a malabsorption disease – meaning, that no matter how much a person eats, that person is still malnourished. It is an abnormal intolerance for gluten, a protein present in wheat, rye, barley and other grains. Gluten is also present as ingredient of medicine, cosmetics and other food products.
Celiac disease was once thought as a rare childhood syndrome. However it affects people of all ages. It can be triggered – or activated for the first time, after surgery, viral infection, severe emotional stress, pregnancy or childbirth. Symptoms vary from person to person depending on the person’s age and extent of damage to the small intestine. Sometimes, the disease is there for a decade or more and is only diagnosed when it developed complications. It is a genetic disease – that is, it runs in the family.
Digestive symptoms are very common in infants and young children and may include
· abdominal pain
· chronic diarrhea or constipation
· pale, foul-smelling stool
· steatorrhea or fatty stool
· weight loss
Malabsorption may result in failure to thrive in infants, delayed growth and short stature, delayed puberty, and dental enamel defects of the permanent teeth.
Common symptoms in adult include:
· anxiety or depression
· bone or joint pain
· canker sores
· itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
· infertility or recurrent miscarriage
· tingling in the hands and feet
Complications may arise over time which can lead to anemia, liver diseases, and cancers of the intestine.
The symptoms are varied that celiac disease can be misdiagnosed or confused with other diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, iron-deficiency anemia caused by menstrual blood loss, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, intestinal infections, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Blood tests can help the doctor diagnose this disease. The diagnosis can be confirmed with a biopsy of the intestine.
Continued researches are trying to find out why celiac disease has varied symptoms. Factors such as how early a person started breastfeeding, how old a person started eating gluten-containing foods, and how much of gluten-containing foods one eats are thought to play a role of how and when a celiac diseases appears. Studies have shown that the longer the person has been breastfed the later the symptoms of celiac disease appear.
People with celiac disease tend to have other autoimmune disorders wherein the body’s immune system attacks the body’s healthy cells and tissues. They include type 1 diabetes, autoimmune liver disease, autoimmune thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Addison’s disease, a condition in which the glands that produce critical hormones are damaged; Sjögren’s syndrome, a condition in which the glands that produce tears and saliva are destroyed. Celiac disease is also more common among people with some known genetic disorders including Down syndrome and Turner syndrome, a condition that affects girls’ development.