I first heard of Celiac Disease in the recovery room following my husband's endoscopy. He had been complaining that his face and hands tingled, his upper right quadrant hurt, and he had been losing weight that he couldn't afford to lose. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, it triggers an autoimmune response. The body attacks itself and destroys normal tissues, in particular the villi in the small intestine. This is what the doctor saw, and what he explained to us in the recovery room.
The more we learn about the disease the more grateful we are that he was diagnosed quickly. A decade ago they thought 1 out of 10,000 Americans had celiac disease, but a new study says the number is really 1 out of 133.
So why does it take an average of 10 years for a person to be diagnosed with celiac disease?
There are over 300 symptoms! Many have severe digestion problems, but others may have no gastrointestinal discomfort at all. Some are even asymptomatic... but here are some possible symptoms one might have:
- Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating
- Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
- Dental and bone disorders (such as osteoporosis)
- General weakness and fatigue
- Insulin-dependent diabetes (juvenile-onset or type 1 diabetes)
- Joint pain
- Mouth sores
- Muscle cramps
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Skin rash
- Stunted growth (in children)
- Systemic lupus
- Tingling (neuropathy)
- Upset Stomach
- Weight loss
To make it more difficult for doctors and patients, celiac symptoms can also mimic symptoms of other conditions! Such as Anemia, Crohns disease, gastric ulcers, irritable bowel, parasitic infection, various skin disorders and some nervous conditions.
Celiac disease is not isolated to one gender or age group. It can begin as early as 6 months old (whenever the child is exposed to gluten). The most common symptoms in children are diarrhea, poor appetite, a bloated or painful belly, weight loss or difficulty gaining weight. Other symptoms could be stunted growth, iron deficiency anemia, a skin rash, or tooth changes. Children with this disease may experience spontaneous remissions and later in adulthood it is reactivated by stress such as pregnancy or surgery.
For Chicago area residents, The University of Chicago has a free blood screening October 15, 2011 8:30 AM until Noon (Advanced registration required; open Aug 15th). http://www.celiacdisease.net/ check their website for more information. They say 97% of celiacs are undiagnosed.
If you're related to someone with celiac disease or recognize the symptoms in yourself or your children than ask your doctor about a blood test. Doctors recommend you get tested before you experiment with a gluten free diet because going off gluten will alter your test results. If celiac disease remains untreated, it increases the risk of developing other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, cancer, and other complications from malabsorption. Even if there is no immediate reaction the body is being damaged.
One simple blood test could change your life or the life of your child!!