Getting To Know Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine. When people with celiac eat food containing gluten, the gastrointestinal (GI) disorder triggers an immune response. Over time, this response damages the lining of the small intestine, causing symptoms and preventing the body from absorbing nutrients. An upper GI endoscopy can help diagnose and treat celiac disease.
Who is at risk?
Celiac disease is hereditary, meaning the disorder runs in families. Some people may have the disease but do not know. People with Down syndrome, type 1 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, or other pre-existing autoimmune disorders are more prone to developing celiac disease.
Some people may not show any symptoms, while others display gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and pale stool. Other symptoms can include skin rash, mouth ulcers, anemia, paresthesia in the lower limb, and depression. Some may have musculoskeletal problems such as bone and joint pain and dental changes. Children may experience growth or developmental problems.
Endoscopy and biopsy
Upper GI endoscopy and biopsy are ways to diagnose celiac disease and help with treatment. Endoscopy is a long thin tube with an attached camera and light that is introduced into the throat and intestine. Upper GI endoscopy allows visualizing of the structures of the gastrointestinal tract. During the endoscopy, the doctor can take a biopsy of the small tissue to observe under a microscope. Endoscopy and biopsy procedures are done if blood tests or genetic tests are abnormal.
Is endoscopy always needed?
In some cases, upper GI endoscopy may not be required. A person having dermatitis herpetiformis, a rash caused by gluten, may not need an endoscopy. Also, if a patient displays all the typical signs of celiac disease, then endoscopy may not be needed. The healthcare provider will decide whether endoscopy and biopsy procedures are required for each patient.
Nutrition for celiac disease
The only way to treat this disease is to have a gluten-free diet. A dietician can help create a diet plan that eliminates common culprits like wheat, oats, and barley. Regular follow-ups with a healthcare provider can help monitor the condition and any side effects. There are no preventive methods for this disease. However, early diagnosis and treatment are recommended to prevent future complications.
A gluten-free life
Upper GI endoscopy is a helpful way to diagnose celiac, but dietary changes will have the most significant impact. Going gluten-free to heal the intestine may require 2-3 years to work. To control symptoms, a person must be on this diet for life. With proper treatment and routine check-ups, the outlook for this condition is usually good.