Celiac Disease is a condition that affects the small intestine, resulting in the damage of the lining of the wall of the intestine. The damage is caused by a protein called gluten, which is present in many grains like wheat, rye, barley, semolina, seitan, couscous, karmut, farina, spelt, triticale and graham flour. The disease is hereditary, and can occur anytime in your life. It is more common in women, especially in Caucasians. Knowing the signs and symptoms associated with celiac disease helps your doctor to diagnose the condition.
The disease affects the body only when you eat gluten-containing foods. Otherwise, the patient will be totally normal and will not show any symptoms of the disease.
The small intestine contains small structures called villi, which are responsible for the absorption of nutrients from food. When gluten reaches the small intestine, the body considers it an antigen and antibodies are produced. These antibodies destroy the gluten, but they also destroy some of the lining of the small intestine and the villi.
The body is then not able to absorb nutrients and this will result in indigestion. In turn this leads to diarrhea and abdominal pain. Some patients will have constipation and abdominal bloating. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, and vomiting. Lactose intolerance is also seen in some patients.
Neurological symptoms are also seen in some patients with celiac disease. The symptoms vary in different people. It can be either mild or severe.
In mild cases, the patient may experience excessive fatigue. Behavioral problems can occur in some people including depression and irritability.
In severe cases, the patient may experience seizure and neuropathy. Neuropathy is a condition that affects the nervous system causing numbness and tingling sensations in the upper and lower limbs. Damage to the nervous system may also affect sensation. If not treated, the condition will become worse.
The first step to treating the condition is the avoidance of foods that contain gluten and replacing them with gluten-free food. Once you are diagnosed with celiac disease, you will have to avoid gluten. Your doctor may refer you to a dietician to help you with this. You may also have to learn to read food labels to make sure the food you eat is free of any gluten-containing grains. Nowadays, you can even find a gluten-free section in your supermarket, where you can buy cereals, cookies and cake mixes, which are specially made for people with gluten intolerance.