Celiac disease is a digestive and autoimmune disorder which damages the lining of the small intestine in the digestive system. Celiac disease is triggered by a protein called gluten found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains. If a person is sensitive to gluten, he might have Celiac disease. When people eat gluten, their immune system attacks the lining of the intestine. Over a period of time, this reaction damages the small intestine’s lining and prevents it from absorbing the nutrients it needs which eventually leads to malnourishment. The intestinal damage often causes diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and anemia and can lead to serious health problems. Celiac disease is mostly hereditary and can start at any age. It should be noted that Celiac disease is not the same thing as gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity. People with gluten intolerance may have some of the same symptoms and may want to avoid gluten but they do not show an immune response or damage to the small intestine.
Today, we would be exploring Celiac disease in detail and learn about its causes, risk factors, complications, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
According to research, there is no definite cause of Celiac disease. It is genetic and tends to run in families and might pass down from parents to children. However, the disease affects the small intestine and causes inflammation and damages the villi (finger-like projections that line the small intestine). Villi absorb nutrients from the food eaten and if the villi are damaged, the person cannot absorb nutrients and ends up malnourished.
Celiac disease tends to be more common in people who have:
- Family history
- Type 1 diabetes
- Down syndrome or Turner syndrome
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
- Addison’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Chronic pancreatitis
If the Celiac disease is left untreated, it can lead to serious complications, such as:
- Thyroid disease
- Infertility and miscarriage
- Lactose intolerance
- Nervous system problems
The symptoms of Celiac disease can range from mild to severe. They can change over time and may vary greatly in children and adults. Some people might have no symptoms at all and some might have a nutrient deficiency in their body. Other symptoms might include:
- Bloating and gas
- Weight loss
- Headaches and fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anemia (iron deficiency) or hepatitis
- Itchy, blistery skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
- Mouth ulcers
- Muscle cramps, joint and bone pain
- Growth problems in children
- Nervous system injury
For diagnosis of Celiac disease, the doctor will perform a careful physical examination and discuss medical and family history. He/She might perform some blood tests to measure levels of antibodies to gluten and check iron levels. People with Celiac disease have higher levels of certain antibodies in their blood. Sometimes having a genetic test for Celiac disease in the blood may be necessary. Further diagnosis might include a biopsy of the small intestine, skin biopsy and genetic tests.
The treatment for Celiac disease is through a strict, life long gluten-free diet to help manage symptoms and promote intestinal healing. Changing the diet is important to avoid any serious health complications. A dietician can help to design a customized gluten-free diet.
A gluten-free diet can be healthy and well-balanced. If some one is diagnosed with Celiac disease, they will no longer be able to eat foods that contain wheat, barley, and semolina. People with Celiac disease need to check labels carefully. Foods to avoid should be bread, pasta, cereals, biscuits, cakes, sauces and any other processed food items. They can eat fruits, starchy vegetables (potatoes), meat and fish, dairy products, rice, beans and nuts, and gluten-free flour such as rice, corn, soy and potato flour. Cross-contact can also make gluten-free foods unsafe for people with Celiac disease. It occurs when foods or products that contain gluten come into contact with gluten-free foods.
The dietitian may also recommend taking vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure all the nutrients are being taken while the digestive system repairs itself.
Celiac disease cannot be prevented. However, early detection and management of Celiac disease may prevent severe complications. Therefore, it is important for people to check for this disease who are at a higher risk for having the condition, such as first-degree family members of patients with Celiac disease.
Celiac disease is rarely fatal and most people survive it by avoiding gluten in their diet. A gluten-free diet will help to relieve the symptoms within a few days. However, the intestines usually require time to heal completely.
It is recommended to visit the gastroenterologist regularly for check-ups from3-6 months and annually thereafter. The doctor will assess the symptoms and make a complete physical examination, repeat tests and assess the condition of the disease accordingly.
To book an online or physical consultation with the best gastroenterologist in Karachi visit https://www.shifaam.com. You can also download the Shifaam Health App from Google Play Store (bit.ly/2JqZo3C) or the iOS App Store (apple.co/2QUVxQz). We are just a call 021-37132273 or Whatsapp 0347 7222273 away!
If you or someone is experiencing celiac disease symptoms, you should see a gastroenterologist in Karachi at your earliest. For more information on Gastroenterologists in Karachi or for an appointment with experienced doctors click on the links below:
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