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.

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).

If the results of these tests are unclear, other antibody tests may be done.

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.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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