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Celiac Disease: Who Should Be Tested?

By Alice Valoski, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.

 

Celiac disease has really come into mainstream awareness in just the past 10 to 15 years. Thanks to ongoing research and increased testing, more people suffering from this serious condition are now diagnosed and treated. However, there are still a lot of misconceptions about the disease, and many people who suffer symptoms diagnose themselves and go gluten-free without consulting a doctor.

How common is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a hereditary autoimmune disorder where the consumption of gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) leads to serious damage in the small intestine. Those who have a parent, child or sibling with celiac disease have a 1 in 10 risk of developing the condition. It’s estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide, with 2.5 million Americans undiagnosed and at risk for long-term health complications. The impact of this condition is huge!

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

Most people know about classic digestive symptoms: Chronic diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain and bloating, and vomiting. However, these may all be symptoms of other gastrointestinal disorders, so it’s important to see a doctor for the proper diagnosis.

In fact, the “tummy troubles” are typically more common in children than adults. A myriad of other symptoms and health conditions may be caused by celiac disease. The list is long! Here are just a few of the widely varied symptoms and conditions that could indicate celiac disease:

  • Arthritis and joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Behavioral problems including ADHD
  • Delayed growth/failure to thrive in children
  • Infertility
  • Tingling, numbness or pain in the hands and feet
  • Diagnosis of any GI condition or autoimmune disorder

Anyone with a chronic condition of any kind should ask their doctor about celiac testing. Try this checklist to see if it makes sense to consult gastroenterologist.

Is it celiac, or isn’t it?

Some people who experience a variety of symptoms may have Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity, also called gluten sensitivity. These individuals do not test positive for celiac disease or for a wheat allergy, and symptoms diminish after starting a gluten-free diet. Plus, they don’t experience the small intestine damage that results from celiac disease. This is why getting screened for celiac is so important … the right diagnosis is the only way to get back to feeling better!

Our team at Valley Gastroenterology Associates includes a staff dietician who can help patients modify their diets and go gluten-free without compromising nutrition. Contact us or see your family doctor if you’re concerned about celiac disease in yourself or a family member.

 

Alice Valoski, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is a staff dietician at Valley Gastroenterology Associates in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

 

Sources: celiac.org and go.beyondceliac.org.