What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a long-term condition of your small intestine. Your immune system reacts to the protein gluten in food and results in damage to your small intestine. You may not be able to absorb vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from the foods you eat.
What increases my risk of celiac disease?
The cause of celiac disease is not known. You are at higher risk if you have another autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or a family member with celiac disease.
What are the signs and symptoms of celiac disease?
The main symptom of celiac disease is diarrhea that may smell bad or look oily. You may also have the following:
- Stomach pain, bloating, gas, and weight loss
- Pale skin and bruising
- Weakness, low energy, and loss of appetite
- Bone pain or osteoporosis (bone loss)
- Missed monthly periods or difficulty getting pregnant
- Numbness or tingling in your legs and muscle cramps
- Mouth sores or skin rash that itches
How is celiac disease diagnosed?
- Blood tests: These are used to check for antibodies to gluten. They may also be used to check for anemia and other deficiencies caused by celiac disease.
- Bowel movement sample: This is done to see if you are absorbing nutrients from your diet. For this test, you will need to eat a high-fat diet for 1 day. Then you will need to collect your bowel movements for 2 days. The sample will be sent to a lab.
- Small bowel barium x-rays: This is a test where pictures of your abdomen are taken. You will need to swallow a thick liquid called barium. Barium helps the intestines show up better on x-ray.
- Endoscopic tissue biopsy: This procedure helps your caregiver see the inside of your small intestine. He will use a flexible tube with a small light and camera on the end. Caregivers may remove a small amount of tissue for a biopsy.
How is celiac disease treated?
Since there is no cure for celiac disease, the goal of treatment is to reduce the symptoms. It may take up to 6 months or longer for your intestines to function better. You may need immunosuppressive medicine. These include steroids and are used to decrease inflammation and suppress your immune system.
How do I manage celiac disease?
- Do not eat food that contains gluten: This is the most important way to manage your symptoms. Do not eat anything made with wheat, rye, barley, or oats. Gluten is found in additives in many packaged and restaurant foods. Read food labels or ask before you order food. A dietitian can help you plan meals that do not contain gluten.
- Ask about supplements: You may need to take supplements that contain iron, folic acid, vitamin B12, calcium, or vitamin D. These may be given by mouth or IV.
What are the risks of celiac disease?
If you have had celiac disease for a long time, your intestines may not heal. Your symptoms may continue. Without treatment, you may be at risk for osteoporosis. Celiac disease that is not treated may lead to ulcers, bleeding, and infection. This can be life-threatening.
Where can I find more information?
- Celiac Disease Foundation
20350 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 240
Woodland Hills , CA 91364
Phone: 1- 818 - 716-1513
Web Address: http://www.celiac.org
- Celiac Sprue Association
P.O. Box 31700
Omaha , NE 68131
Phone: 1- 402 - 558-0600
Web Address: http://www.csaceliacs.org
When should I contact my caregiver?
Contact your caregiver if:
- You have new symptoms or your symptoms get worse.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You have a fever.
- You have severe abdominal pain.
- You have blood in your bowel movement.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.