What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease (also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is a digestive and autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine. Eating foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, triggers the disease. The reaction to gluten causes the immune system to attack the tiny bumps, villi, which line the small intestine. The villi help the body take in nutrients from food into the bloodstream. The disease can cause long-lasting digestive problems and keep the body from absorbing all the nutrients it needs (malabsorption), no matter how much food is eaten. Celiac disease often causes diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and anemia, and can lead to serious complications.
Risk factors
  • Race. Celiac disease is more common in Caucasians, whose ancestors came from Europe 
  • Family history. Parents with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis can pass the condition to their children. 
  • Type I diabetes is often found in many cases in patients with celiac disease. 
To diagnose celiac disease, doctors will examine a patient’s medical and family history, physical exam, and tests. Two blood tests to help diagnose celiac disease are: 
  • Serology testing to look for elevated levels certain antibody proteins in the blood that indicate an immune reaction to gluten. 
  • Genetic testing is used to rule out celiac disease by testing for human leukocyte antigens (HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8).
*A biopsy of the small intestine will analyze for damage to the villi if test results indicate celiac disease* 
There is no cure for celiac disease, however treatment aims to relieve and manage the condition’s symptoms and promote intestinal healing. 
  • More than 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease.
  • As many as 1 in 141 Americans have celiac disease, although most don’t know it.
  • About 10 – 20% of close relatives of people with celiac disease also are affected.
  • About 20% of people with celiac disease may receive a diagnosis.
celiac disease about

  • "Celiac Disease." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Aug. 2016. Web. 20 June 2017.
  • "Celiac Disease." National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 20 June 2017.
  • “Celiac Disease Symptoms, Tests & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic: Health Library." Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 12 Dec. 2016. Web. 20 June 2017.
  • "What You Need to Know About Celiac Disease." Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Johns Hopkins Health System, n.d. Web. 20 June 2017.



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