Celiac disease, also known as a gluten-sensitivity, is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. For patients with this disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in your small intestine. Over time, this reaction damages the small intestine's lining and prevents absorption of some nutrients. The intestinal damage often causes diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and anemia, and can lead to serious complications. Celiac is a specific disease and should not be confused with other types of intolerances. It is important to avoid self-diagnosis with Celiac.
Symptoms of a gluten intolerance can vary greatly and are different in children and adults. The most common signs for adults are:
- Weight loss
- Bloating and gas
- Abdominal pain
Doctors may order blood tests to help make a diagnosis. If the results of these tests indicate celiac disease, your doctor may order an endoscopy to view your small intestine and to take a small tissue sample (biopsy) to analyze for damage.
It's important to be tested for celiac disease before trying a gluten-free diet. Eliminating gluten from your diet may change the results of blood tests so that they appear to be normal.
There's no cure for celiac disease—but for most people, following a strict gluten-free diet can help manage symptoms and promote intestinal healing.