is a lifelong (chronic) condition that occurs when
gluten triggers an abnormal
immune system response that damages the
small intestine .
Your small intestine is lined with tiny, finger-shaped tissues called villi. The villi create a large surface that
absorbs vitamins, sugars, and other nutrients as food passes through the small
intestine. When a person who has celiac disease eats gluten, the
villi flatten out and the intestinal lining becomes damaged. This decreases
the area that can absorb nutrients.
In some cases, this
inability to absorb nutrients may be bad enough to stunt
growth and weaken bones. The loss of vitamins and minerals may lead to other problems, such as anemia, osteoporosis, or growth delays in children.
People who have celiac disease
may have periods when their symptoms seem worse. Or symptoms may sometimes not
be noticed at all. In adults, symptoms may occur at any age but most commonly occur during the 20s, 30s,
Sometimes a person who has
celiac disease doesn't have symptoms after eating foods that contain
gluten. But damage to the small intestine is still
Within 2 weeks
after starting a gluten-free diet, most people with celiac disease find that their
symptoms improve. Symptoms should completely
disappear within 3 months. But it takes up to 6 months or longer on a
gluten-free diet for the villi to return to normal.
Staying on a gluten-free diet usually keeps symptoms from returning and lowers the risk for
In rare cases, a gluten-free diet doesn't help. Some people get better for a while, but their symptoms come back even though they are still eating a gluten-free diet. This
condition is called refractory sprue.
In these cases,
corticosteroids or other medicines that change the
immune system response may be used to control
symptoms. People who do not improve on a gluten-free diet should be tested for
other conditions, including T-cell lymphoma.
Celiac disease in children
In some children,
symptoms begin shortly after cereal is introduced into the diet, usually after 6
months of age.
Symptoms of the disease
are controlled by adopting a gluten-free diet. But a child needs to be watched for:
Delayed growth. Children with celiac disease don't absorb needed nutrients if they eat gluten. This may result in delayed
growth if gluten is eaten regularly over a long period.
Nutritional deficiencies. Eating gluten also can
lead to an imbalance of chemicals, minerals, and vitamins. These deficiencies
should reverse with a gluten-free diet. But vitamins, iron, or calcium
supplements are sometimes needed.
Tumors. As children who have celiac disease grow
into adulthood, they may be at a slightly increased risk for getting cancer
(lymphoma). Studies have found that
following a gluten-free diet lowers the risk for lymphoma in adults.1
Children who have untreated celiac disease can become very
ill . They may need to go to the hospital for treatment with fluids and medicine to
restore nutrients. These treatments are usually short-term. Most children