Celiac Disease

Affecting 1% of the population, celiac disease is one of the world’s most prevalent genetic autoimmune conditions. In the United States, celiac disease is also one of the least diagnosed (only 20%), with an estimated 2.5 million children and adults continuing to suffer needlessly. Long-term health complications of undiagnosed celiac disease include: cancers, coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, neurological deficits, anemia, and generalized poor quality of life.

When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.

Is it hereditary?

Celiac disease IS hereditary, meaning that it runs in families. People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease

Celiac Disease Symptoms

Symptoms in children:

Digestive symptoms are more common in infants and children. Here are the most common symptoms found in children:

  • abdominal bloating and pain
  • chronic diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • irritability and behavioral issues
  • dental enamel defects of the permanent teeth
  • delayed growth and puberty
  • short stature
  • failure to thrive
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Symptoms in adults:

Unlike children, adults are less likely to have digestive symptoms, with only one-third experiencing diarrhea. Adults are more likely to have:

  • unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
  • fatigue
  • bone or joint pain
  • arthritis
  • osteoporosis or osteopenia (bone loss)
  • liver and biliary tract disorders (transaminitis, fatty liver, primary sclerosing cholangitis, etc.)
  • depression or anxiety
  • peripheral neuropathy (tingling, numbness or pain in the hands and feet)
  • seizures or migraines
  • missed menstrual periods
  • infertility or recurrent miscarriage
  • canker sores inside the mouth
  • dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy skin rash)

Did You Know?

A 1999 study found that for people with celiac disease, the later the age of diagnosis, the greater the chance of developing another autoimmune disorder.

Age of Diagnosis Chance of Developing Another Autoimmune Condition
2-4 10.5%
4 – 12 16.7%
12 – 20 27%
Over 20 34%

Celiac Disease Foundation

Founded in 1990, the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) is the national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to improve the quality of life for all people affected by celiac disease and non-celiac gluten/wheat sensitivity through funding important research, education, and advocacy initiatives. Today, the Foundation leads the fight to increase the rate of diagnosis, to improve treatments, and to find a cure for celiac disease and non-celiac gluten/wheat sensitivity. For more information on Celiac Disease and the CDF, visit www.celiac.org.

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