By Briana Davis, Clinical Trials of Texas
SAN ANTONIO - Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is a chronic autoimmune disease localized in the small intestine. Common symptoms of this condition may mimic other more widely known medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastric ulcers, Crohn’s disease or anemia, making it a difficult disease to initially assess and diagnose.
Celiac disease is triggered by the consumption of protein gluten often found in bread, pasta, bakery items, beer and many other foods. When an individual with celiac disease consumes foods containing protein gluten, an immune reaction occurs in the small intestine causing the immune system to attack the ingested gluten which can ultimately result in damage to the inner surface of the small intestine, reducing its ability to absorb vital nutrients such as fat, protein, minerals and vitamins.
There are no typical symptoms associated with Celiac disease, as it varies greatly from person-to-person. Additionally, many individuals experience very mild symptoms or they are asymptomatic, meaning they do not experience any symptoms associated with the disease. General complaints may include abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, decreased appetite, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weakness and unexplained weight loss.
The exact cause of Celiac disease has yet to be identified; however, it does appear to be a largely genetic disorder. Individuals with a family history, especially a first-degree relative, have an increased risk of developing the disease. Individuals who have type 1 diabetes, Down Syndrome, microscopic colitis or autoimmune thyroid disease are also at increased risk.
There are several ways to diagnose celiac disease. A physical exam and questions about existing symptoms are the first step. Additionally, blood tests performed to detect the presence of particular antibodies, a biopsy of the small intestine and an endoscopy may be required to reach a definitive diagnosis.
Medication is not typically utilized to treat celiac disease. The key to managing and preventing further complication is through a change in diet. Individuals with celiac disease should avoid all foods containing gluten. As the small intestine acclimates to a gluten free diet, inflammation will subside and individuals typically see a reduction in unpleasant symptoms within a couple of weeks. A full recovery of the small intestinal lining may take two or more years. If an individual has severe nutritional deficiencies as a result of gluten intolerance, a combination of dietary vitamins and supplements such as iron and calcium may be recommended.
If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to an increased risk of numerous serious medical complications such as malnutrition, osteoporosis, lactose intolerance, an increased risk of intestinal lymphoma and bowel cancer, as well as various neurological conditions. It is important to see your doctor if you have a family history of celiac disease or if you are experiencing unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms.
Clinical Trials of Texas, Inc. is currently conducting a research study for men and women diagnosed with celiac disease and currently following a gluten-free diet. If you would like to learn more about this study, please call 210-949-0122 or visit us at SAresearch.com