Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease characterized by the intolerance of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi (the tiny finger-like protrusions that line the small intestine) in the digestive tract. These villi enable nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Even short-term exposure to gluten can cause serious symptoms or consequences for someone with celiac disease.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Celiac disease include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss

Risk Factors

The specific cause of celiac disease is unknown and an individual’s risk for developing the condition may vary.

  • Genetics: first degree relative with celiac disease
  • Medical history of: autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjogren’s syndrome; Addison’s disease; Down syndrome; Lactose intolerance; Thyroid disease; Type 1 diabetes

When to See a Doctor

Occasional abdominal distress such as cramping, bloating or diarrhea may result from a number of causes and, unless persistent, generally does not indicate digestive disease. If your symptoms have not resolved within a few days or if they recur, it’s time for a thorough evaluation and consultation with a specialist.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for celiac disease include the following:

  • Follow a special diet, free of gluten

Diagnostic Testing

The foremost diagnostic “test” for any condition is a thorough exam and consultation with a physician, including a review of your individual and family history. In addition, your physician may recommend any of the following tests or procedures, which may provide further diagnostic value:

Prevention

Celiac disease cannot be prevented, but the symptoms and effects can be reversed and managed with dietary changes. People with celiac disease must follow a life-long gluten-free diet to maintain their health and prevent long-term complications.

Learn More

Learn more about celiac disease with the following resources:

Telehealth Appointments Available

All Capital Digestive Care physicians and advanced practice providers are offering "virtual" visits via telehealth. Call your doctor's office to schedule an appointment. For the health and safety of our patients and staff, we are limiting in-office appointments and endoscopy procedures to patients requiring urgent care. We encourage all individuals to practice everyday preventive actions and social-distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.