CELIAC DISEASE ( also spelled coeliac disease)

Celiac Disease (said seeliak) is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages from middle infancy onward.
It is a life long condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy.
Symptoms include chronic diarrhoea, failure to thrive (in children), and fatigue, but these may be absent, and symptoms in other organ systems have been described.
Celiac disease is caused by a reaction to gliadin, a prolamin (gluten protein) found in wheat, and similar proteins found in the crops of the tribe Triticeae (which includes other common grains such as barley and rye).
Severe celiac disease leads to the characteristic symptoms of pale, loose and greasy faeces, and weight loss or failure to gain weight (in young children). People with milder celiac disease may have symptoms that are much more subtle and occur in other organs rather than the bowel itself. It is also possible to have celiac disease without any symptoms whatsoever. Many adults with subtle disease only have fatigue or anaemia.
Celiac disease is common in European countries, particularly in Ireland, Italy, Sweden, and Austria. In Northern Ireland, for example, one in every 300 people has celiac disease. In Finland, the prevalence may be as high as one in every 100 people. Celiac disease also occurs in North America where the prevalence has been estimated to be one in every 3000 people. Unfortunately, most population studies underestimate the prevalence of celiac disease because many individuals who develop celiac disease have few or no symptoms until later in life. Moreover, a study suggests that the prevalence of celiac disease in the United States is similar to that in Europe.

external image 220px-Celiac_endo.JPG
Picture of patient with celiac disease's small intestine
Because the exact cause is unknown, there is no known way to prevent the development of celiac disease. However, being aware of the risk factors (such as having a family member with the disorder) may increase your chances of early diagnosis, treatment, and a long, healthy life.
Patients with celiac disease must follow a lifelong gluten-free diet. This usually requires consultation with a dietitian and a careful review of food ingredients to be successful. Once all forms of wheat, rye, and barley have been removed from the diet, autoantibody levels will begin to fall and the intestine will heal.

While most if not all of the intestinal damage caused by celiac disease is reversible, some effects of prolonged malnutrition and malabsorption ( such as short stature and weakened bones)– may be permanent. It is important to detect and treat celiac disease as soon as possible, especially in young children. Celiac disease should be considered in infants who are not thriving, since foods with gluten are common and celiac autoantibodies may begin to develop shortly after a child switches from milk to solid foods.