Could You Have Celiac Disease and Not Know It?

The risk of celiac disease in adults is surprisingly high. This disease is four times more common than it was fifty years ago. Should you be tested for this disease?

A new study published in the journal Gastroenterology shows that the incidence of celiac disease in adults is more four times higher than it was in the 1950’s, suggesting that this disease may be on the rise. Some estimates have shown the prevalence of celiac disease in the general population to be as high as 1 in every 120 people, with some people unaware that they even have it. Is it possible to have celiac disease and not know it?

What Is It and What Are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?

What exactly is celiac disease?  Celiac disease is a condition where the intestines are sensitive to gluten, a protein found in many common grain products including wheat, barley, and rye. When gluten is eaten, it sets up an inflammatory reaction in the intestines which leads to a variety of intestinal symptoms including abdominal bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and excessive flatulence. Weight loss, muscle and joint aches, and skin rashes can also occur.

Celiac disease can also appear in a more “silent” form with few obvious symptoms which is why this disease is so under diagnosed. Occasionally, celiac disease will present only with symptoms of fibromyalgia or depression which can make the diagnosis even more challenging. The effects of undiagnosed celiac disease can be particularly problematic in children since it can lead to stunting of growth and failure to thrive. The risk of celiac disease may be higher in some individuals due to family history since the disease has a strong genetic component.

The Risk of Celiac Disease: Who Needs to Be Tested?

Anyone who has any of the above symptoms of celiac disease should be tested, particularly if the symptoms are aggravated by eating wheat and grain products. It may be helpful to keep a careful food diary outlining everything that’s eaten along with symptoms for a few weeks to see if gluten makes the symptoms worse. People who have a family history of celiac disease should be tested since the likelihood of having it with a family history is as high as twenty percent. Anyone with type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, anemia, symptoms of fibromyalgia, or children with growth retardation should also be tested. Testing is usually done by a blood test to check for antibodies to gluten. This may be followed up by a small bowel biopsy for confirmation.

The Risk of Celiac Disease: Is There a Treatment?

The good news is the symptoms of celiac disease can be controlled by adopting a gluten-free diet. Avoiding gluten causes the inflamed intestines to heal rapidly eliminating the unpleasant symptoms.

The Risk of Celiac Disease: Why is a Diagnosis so Important?

If celiac disease is left untreated, there can be a variety of serious complications. People with undiagnosed celiac disease are at a greater risk of developing lymphoma, osteoporosis, and a variety of neurological complications. Fortunately, once the diagnosis is made, there are a variety of gluten-free products on the market that can make the necessary dietary changes easier. Celiac is a disease that most people are able to comfortably live with.

The risk of celiac disease in adults is surprisingly high. This disease is four times more common than it was fifty years ago. Should you be tested for this disease?

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  1. My uncle had unexplained health problems which he later related to allergy to gluten. Can this allergy to gluten develop in later years or is it congenital?

  2. It is genetic; you can go years and well into adulthood and start getting symptoms or still have no traditional symptoms at all.

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