Celiac disease (CD) is far more common than we once thought. A recent study suggests that one in 133 people likely have CD, even though many of those sufferers may not even realize it yet. Most celiac disease symptoms begin to fade after a patient adopts a strict gluten-free lifestyle. However, in some rare cases, the symptoms do not fade. This may be a sign of an even more serious condition.
What Are the Most Common Celiac Disease Symptoms?
The most common symptoms of CD involve intestinal distress. This is because the antibodies triggered by your consuming gluten attack the lining of your small intestine, causing inflammation and damaging the microvilli along your intestinal wall. So those symptoms include problems like flatulence, bloating, cramping, and alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation.
Usually these symptoms will start to fade after about two weeks of strictly adhering to a gluten-free diet. Unfortunately for some people in rare situations, it may take up to a year to experience real relief from their symptoms. However, if you experience no relief after a year, then you may have refractory CD, which is an even more serious condition.
What Is Refractory Celiac Disease?
While you can treat most forms of celiac disease, also known as coeliac disease, CD or celiac sprue disease, with a gluten-free diet, in some rare cases people don’t respond to this dietary restriction. Refractory coeliac sprue disease is basically CD that does not respond to a gluten-free diet. However, before this is diagnosed, many other similarly manifesting conditions must be eliminated as possibilities, because many of them are far more likely.
There are two types of refractory CD.
Type I Refractory Celiac Disease
This is the most common type and it exists when an intestinal biopsy indicates normal cell behavior within the intestinal lining and the patient is responsive to steroidal treatment of their symptoms.
Type II Refractory Celiac Disease
While very rare, this type of coeliac sprue disease is in fact a deadly form of cancer. In addition to not responding to a gluten-free diet, patients with this type of CD do not respond to steroidal treatment. Doctors will confirm Type II refractory CD with an intestinal biopsy showing clear signs of abnormal cell behavior.
Many researchers now consider this a form of T-cell lymphoma, a malignant cancer.
Keep in mind, however, that in most cases where a patient is not responsive to a gluten-free diet, there are usually other more benign underlying conditions causing the problem (like lactose intolerance) or the patient is not being vigilant enough about eliminating gluten from his or her diet.
If you suffer from celiac disease symptoms, I urge you to adopt a gluten-free diet right away, and exercise vigilance. If your symptoms won’t go away, you should consult a doctor for guidance on how to proceed and eliminate the worst possible scenarios.