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Celiac Disease - Topic Overview

Celiac disease is a problem some people have with foods that contain gluten. Gluten is a type of protein. It's found in the grains wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a wheat-rye cross).

When you have this disease and you eat food with gluten in it, the gluten triggers an immune response that is not normal. This damages the inside of your small intestine camera.gif so that it can't do a good job of absorbing nutrients from your food.

It's important to get treatment, because celiac disease can:

In children, celiac disease can slow growth and weaken bones. If it isn't treated, your child can get very sick. Call a doctor if your child is losing a lot of weight, has diarrhea, or feels weak and tired for many days for no reason.

Doctors don't really know what causes the disease. Having certain genes can increase your chance of getting it. You're more likely to have these genes and get celiac disease if a close family member has the disease.

Symptoms of celiac disease include:

These symptoms can be very mild.

Some people vomit after they eat gluten. This is more likely to happen in children than in adults.

Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and do a physical exam.

You may have blood tests to see if you have certain antibodies that could mean you have the disease.

To make sure you have celiac disease, you will probably have an endoscopy. In this test, a doctor uses a thin, lighted tube to look at the inside of your small intestine. Your doctor can also take small samples of tissue to be tested in a lab. This is called a biopsy.

Often celiac disease is mistaken for another problem such as food intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome. You may be treated for one of these problems first.

After your celiac disease diagnosis, your doctor may do more tests, such as blood tests to check for anemia. You may also have a bone density exam. These tests will help your doctor find out if you have other problems, such as osteoporosis, that can arise when you have celiac disease.

To get and stay well, you need to avoid all foods that have gluten. For many people, this means changing everything about the way they eat. This can be challenging. For help, work with a dietitian who has experience with gluten-free diets. Together you can find foods you like that don't have gluten.

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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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