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What are the challenges in diagnosing celiac disease?

On Behalf of | Dec 22, 2019 | Blog

Gluten is a protein found in grains like barley, rye or wheat. People with celiac disease experience an adverse immune response to gluten that causes symptoms in the small intestine. Celiac disease is relatively rare, affecting less than 1% of the population of the United States, including Kentucky. 

If you have celiac disease, it is important for you to avoid consuming gluten in any form after gradually eliminating it from your diet. Otherwise, you may permanently damage the small intestine and put yourself at risk for potentially serious complications. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose for a number of reasons. 

1. Symptoms can be different in adults and children 

Celiac disease can affect both children and adults. However, the symptoms tend to be different for each. Children are more likely to experience digestive problems: 

  • Foul-smelling, pale-colored stools 
  • Belly swelling 
  • Constipation 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Gas 
  • Nausea/vomiting 

Adults with celiac disease can experience similar digestive symptoms but also tend to experience seemingly unrelated signs. These include joint pain, headaches, mouth ulcers, skin rash and anemia. 

2. Celiac disease can mimic other symptoms 

Digestive symptoms of celiac disease can be similar to those of other gastrointestinal disorders. These include Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Though the symptoms are sometimes similar, these are three very different conditions with various causes and treatment options. 

3. Giving up gluten early can affect testing 

Your doctor may administer blood testing to diagnose celiac disease. However, if you have pre-emptively eliminated gluten from your diet, blood tests may render a normal result. It is better to eliminate gluten gradually from your diet. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.