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Celiac Disease - Exams and Tests

A medical history, physical exam, and lab tests often point to celiac disease. The diagnosis is confirmed with a small intestine biopsy collected during an endoscopy, where a small tube is guided down a person's throat to the small intestine.

Tests for celiac disease should be done when you or your child is still eating a diet that includes gluten. If you have already started a gluten-free diet before these tests are done, the doctor may suggest that you or your child eat a certain amount of gluten before the tests.

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Blood antibody tests

Celiac disease triggers the immune system to produce certain antibodies. Blood tests that find and measure these antibodies include:

  • IgAtTG: Immunoglobulin A (IgA) anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibody.
  • IgAEMA: Immunoglobulin A (IgA) antiendomysial antibody (EMA).

Endoscopy

A biopsy taken during an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy may be done to confirm celiac disease after antibodies have been found. Sometimes a biopsy detects celiac disease when a person is being tested for another condition.

If the biopsy shows signs of celiac disease (such as abnormal villi and inflammation in the small intestine), a gluten-free diet will be recommended.

A diagnosis of celiac disease is confirmed if the diet makes symptoms go away and if antibody tests become normal.

Other tests

Other tests that may be done include:

Tests to look for other conditions and diseases may be needed if a diagnosis of celiac disease is suspected but symptoms don't improve with a gluten-free diet.

You can prepare your child for these tests. Knowing why tests are being done and what to expect can help make the tests less scary.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 29, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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