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Celiac Disease


Overview :

Celiac disease occurs when the body reacts abnormally to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats. When someone with celiac disease eats foods containing gluten, that person's immune system causes an inflammatory response in the small intestine, which damages the tissues and results in impaired ability to absorb nutrients from foods. The inflammation and malabsorption create wide-ranging problems in many systems of the body. Since the body's own immune system causes the damage, celiac disease is classified as an "autoimmune" disorder. Celiac disease may also be called sprue, nontropical sprue, gluten sensitive enteropathy, celiac sprue, and adult celiac disease.

Celiac disease may be discovered at any age, from infancy through adulthood. The disorder is more commonly found among white Europeans or in people of European descent. It is very unusual to find celiac disease in African or Asian people. The exact incidence of the disease is uncertain. Estimates vary from one in 5000, to as many as one in every 300 individuals with this background. The prevalence of celiac disease seems to be different from one European country to another, and between Europe and the United States. This may be due to differences in diet and/or unrecognized disease. A recent study of random blood samples tested for celiac disease in the US showed one in 250 testing positive. It is clearly under-diagnosed, probably due to the symptoms being attributed to another problem, or lack of knowledge about celiac disease by physicians and laboratories. Because of the known genetic component, relatives of patients with celiac disease are considered at higher risk for the disorder.

Because celiac disease has a hereditary influence, close relatives (especially first degree relatives, such as children, siblings, and parents) have a higher risk of being affected with the condition. The chance that a first degree relative of someone with celiac disease will have the disease is about 10%.

As more is learned about celiac disease, it becomes evident that it has many variations which may not produce typical symptoms. It may even be clinically "silent," where no obvious problems related to the disease are apparent.




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