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Celiac Disease Health Center

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Learning to Live With Celiac Disease

You may not know you have it, but celiac disease can rob the body of nutrients it needs to thrive.

Dangers of Misdiagnosis continued...

People with undiagnosed celiac disease tend to have fewer university degrees and fewer managerial jobs, which may possibly be related to childhood behavioral problems, according to a Finnish study.

This may be related to the increased prevalence of depressive and disruptive behavioral disorders described in teenagers with untreated celiac disease, Green says.

"In adults and kids iron deficiency -- even without anemia -- is a risk factor for poor performance on standardized math tests, so anemia can play a role as well," LaPook adds.

Diagnostic Clues

Diagnosing celiac disease may be part of the problem.

"It can be very tricky," LaPook says. The first step is typically blood tests looking for the presence and levels of certain antibodies. These tests may include anti-gliadin, anti-endomysial, anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies, and total immunoglobulin A. If blood test results are positive, a person will then go for a biopsy of the small intestine to confirm the diagnosis and assess the degree of damage.

Sometimes blood tests are inconclusive, LaPook explains, and that's when we test for specific HLA (human leukocyte antigen) genes associated with celiac disease. If these genes are not present, it is unlikely that a person will develop celiac disease. A positive HLA test, however, does not mean that the individual has the condition, as these genes are common in the general population.

"About 30% of the general population has the genetic propensity for celiac disease and yet only about 1% get it, so most people with the genetic propensity don't have celiac disease, and the thinking is that there may be something that unmasks it, like a virus or other factors that we don't understand yet," LaPook says.

A diagnostic clue, however, is the presence of a skin problem called dermatitis herpetiformis, which is marked by itching and blisters. This typically goes hand-in-hand with celiac disease.

Should You Get Tested?

As far as who should get tested, anyone with symptoms should talk to their doctor about getting a blood test -- and perhaps anyone with any of the secondary conditions such as the brittle bone disease osteoporosis or infertility, experts tell WebMD.

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