Today, about 3 million Americans have celiac disease.  Many of them don’t know they have it.  This is because 2 out of every 5 people don’t have symptoms.  Others don’t get diagnosed.  Symptoms can come and go.  And most symptoms can also be caused by other conditions.  So it’s hard to put everything together and make the right diagnosis.  But knowing if you have the disease is the first step towards a healthier life. 

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease.  When a person with the disease eats gluten, his or her body attacks the intestines.  This makes it hard for the body to take in important nutrients.  So the person is malnourished, no matter how much is eaten.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye, and barley.  It is found in many common foods.  It’s also found in everyday products such as soy sauce, medicines, vitamins, and even lip balm.

Could it be celiac disease?

Celiac disease is hard to diagnose.  Sometimes it’s confused with lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome.  Those conditions can have the same symptoms.  The following symptoms can be seen in patients with celiac disease; diarrhea, headaches, bloating, fatigue, heartburn, infertility, stomach pain, thin bones, mouth sores, gas, irritability, discolored teeth, itchy skin rash, depression, and constipation.

How do you find out if you have celiac disease?

If you think you might have celiac disease, talk to your doctor right away.  He or she will give you a physical exam, review your medical history, and perhaps order a blood test.  This is the first step in diagnosing celiac disease.  Follow-up may also be needed.

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Why getting tested matters.

Testing is the only way to know if you have celiac disease.  If you don’t get diagnosed and treated, you might develop more serious conditions.  These include osteoporosis and cancer.

Some people think they don’t need to get tested – they can just stop eating gluten.  But that is not a good idea.  Your doctor will know to check for nutritional deficiencies or possible complications one on official diagnosis is made.

Facts about celiac disease:

  • 83% of affected people are undiagnosed

  • 41% of adults have no symptoms at all

  • 11 years is the average time for first symptoms to diagnosis

  • Your risk increased by 10% if a family member has the disease 

Complete a symptom/disease checklist and learn more about Celiac Disease.

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