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Celiac Disease – Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Updated on September 11, 2013

Celiac disease is an intestinal disorder caused by the intake of gluten in food. Gluten is a protein present in foods like bread, pasta, pizza crust, cookies and in several other varieties of foods made from wheat, rye-type grains, and barley that contain gluten in them. The intake of gluten-content foods damages the digestive function of villi, finger-like projection that lines the small intestine.

Intake of gluten by patients of celiac disease causes an abnormal reaction that prevents the glands of small intestine from absorbing the necessary nutrients required for optimal functioning of body processes. Inadequate nutrition can hinder the smooth functioning of various organs in the body. The much needed nutrients are removed as waste in stool.

The vitamin and nutritional deficits caused by celiac disease may then result in damage to the vital organs such as brain, bones, liver, and peripheral nervous system.

There is no cure for this disease. However, it can be controlled by with proper altered diet, nutritional supplements, and other options of management.

Symptoms of celiac disease

The following are some of the common symptoms of celiac disease:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Episodic diarrhea
  • In a few cases, the signs of celiac disease may appear similar to the symptoms of some other disorders such as irritable bowel, anemia, Crohn’s disease, parasitic infections and gastric ulcers. In other case, it may not show any signs of gastrointestinal problems.

The failure to absorb the nutrients or the reduced capacity for absorbing of nutrients by the intestine due to celiac disease can also be identified by the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps in abdomen
  • Bloating and gas
  • Loss of weight
  • Overall weakness and fatigue
  • Oily and fatty grayish stool with bad smell
  • Osteoporosis
  • Lack of normal growth in children

The following are the less noticed signs of celiac disease:

  • Stomach disorder
  • Anemia
  • Sense of irritability and depression
  • Muscle cramping
  • Joint pains
  • Mouth sores
  • Skin rashes
  • Bone conditions like osteoporosis
  • Tingling sensations in legs

If timely treatment is not provided, it may result in many medical complications such as cancer, loss of calcium and bone density, malnutrition, neurological disorder, and intolerance to lactose.

Causes of celiac disease

The actual cause for celiac disease is still unknown. However,medical experts believe that some specific reactions occur in patients with celiac disease that causes malfunctioning of their immune system, which in turn responds differently to the intake of gluten content food.

The inside wall of the small intestine has a formation of tiny, hairy growths called villi. The villi functions as an absorber of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients present in food, which are then distributed to the various vital organs of the body. The celiac disease damages the villi in intestine. It causes lesser absorption of nutrients from the food and lesser supply of nutrients to body organs. A lot of nutrients like proteins, minerals, fat, and vitamins are moved out as waste through stool.

Even though the exact cause for celiac disease is not known, doctors have noticed that the disorder tends to run in families with celiac disease. Hence, children who have a family history of the disorder are at more risk for getting celiac disease.

Some kind of gene mutations also seem to enhance the risks of getting this condition. However, that does not prove that such genetic mutations are definitely responsible for causing celiac disease. It leaves much room to think that there may be many other factors which are responsible for the eventual development of celiac disease.

The following are some of the risk factors that enhance the chances of celiac disease:

  • Acute type 1 diabetes
  • Autoimmune thyroid disorder
  • Down syndrome
  • Microscopic colitis

Treatment of celiac disease

There is no known cure or treatment methods for celiac disease. But the syndrome can be managed by modifying the daily diet.

  • The disorder can be managed by avoiding foods that contain gluten. By strictly following the food restrictions, one can avoid further manifestations and complications. The gluten containing food items that a patient has to avoid are wheat, barley, rye, farina, durum, semolina, graham flour, spelt, triticale and bulgur.
  • Celiac disease affected patients can consult a nutritionist to identify a gluten free diet which can provide all the required nutrition for the body.
  • Once gluten is eliminated from the diet of the patient, the intestinal disorder may diminish gradually. It may take several weeks for getting the desired results. The normalization of villi may take many months, or even 2 or 3 years. The intestinal healing is faster in children rather than older people.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements are given In case of nutritional deficiencies.
  • Steroid medications are given in case of abdominal pain and inflammation.

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