May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month: Explore the Signs, Causes, and Treatments

5/13/2022

You’ve likely heard of gluten. In this day and age, it’s not uncommon to know a few individuals that adhere to a gluten-free life even if you're not following one in your own life. Gluten intolerance, however, could point to something more concerning – a health condition referred to as celiac disease. At GI Alliance, our goal is to help people understand the symptoms of celiac disease and determine how to best manage this health concern. There's no better time to learn about the symptoms, signs, causes, and treatments for celiac disease than the month of May, recognized as Celiac Disease Awareness Month. Read on to learn more information about celiac disease from our board-certified gastroenterology team.

What should I know about celiac disease?

An autoimmune condition, celiac disease triggers damage to the small intestine when gluten is eaten. When this hereditary disease is present, the body is prompted to carry out an immune system reaction following the consumption of gluten that can harm the villi, the little fingerlike fringe lining of the small bowel. This prohibits the body from receiving nutrients correctly.

At GI Alliance, we want to arm people with the necessary information about celiac disease since around 1 in 100 individuals suffers from this condition. People who have celiac disease are at higher risk of developing coronary artery disease and are four times more likely to get cancer of the small bowel.

What are the signs and symptoms of celiac disease?

Around 2.5 million Americans have undiagnosed cases of celiac disease. It's essential to know the symptoms of this disorder because, in the absence of care, it can lead to serious long-term health issues.

Common signs and symptoms of celiac disease are:

  • Loose bowel movements
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis rash, commonly on the elbows, knees, or buttocks (referred to as the “celiac rash”)
  • Gassiness
  • Dental decay
  • Bloating of the abdomen
  • Fainting or weakness
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Numbness, tingling, or pain in the feet

What can I expect with a celiac disease diagnosis?

The gastrointestinal specialists at GI Alliance conduct diagnostic celiac disease screenings and help those with celiac disease gain control of this concern. To test a patient for celiac disease, our team will first start by collecting a detailed health and family history. Since people who have an immediate family member with celiac disease possess a 10% chance of getting the disorder, it's crucial to assess family history at the beginning. After that, our experts will discuss symptoms and carry out a physical exam. Our specialists might analyze the following factors when carrying out this exam:

  • Certain sounds originating in the abdomen
  • Skin rashes
  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen
  • Weight loss

Our GI physicians might also recommend one or more celiac disease tests, such as blood work, biopsies of the small intestine or a skin rash, DNA testing, and more. Test results could offer us a more extensive understanding of your symptoms and the potential for any autoimmune conditions associated with celiac disease.

Is celiac disease easy to treat?

Even though celiac disease can cause serious complications without proper care, you can take comfort in knowing it can be fairly simple to control. We generally suggest treating celiac disease with a gluten-free diet, which entails avoiding certain grains, particularly barley, rye, and wheat. There is an extensive body of information about gluten-free diets on the internet, but our GI physicians suggest getting help from a nutritionist who can help facilitate this transition, as gluten is commonly found in many substances of which you might not be aware. A few common household products that can contain gluten are:

  • Play-Doh
  • Certain OTC medications
  • Lipstick or lip gloss
  • Toothpaste

Find help for celiac disease

Celiac disease is a great deal more than having an intolerance to gluten. It’s a disease that targets the small intestine and can result in chronic damage if left untreated. If you or a loved one faces any signs or symptoms of celiac disease or have a sibling or parent with celiac disease, we urge you to schedule an appointment at GI Alliance to test for celiac disease so you can get professional care as early as possible. For further details about digestive health concerns or to find help for celiac disease, get in touch with our gastroenterology team today.

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