Diagnoses of Celiac Disease on the Rise Print
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Jake Glimco   
Monday, 12 December 2011 16:15

Celiac Disease Diagnoses Increasing

Celiac Disease now the #1 most frequently searched GI term on the internet

QUAD-CITIES / November 29, 2011 -- Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease of the small intestine previously thought to be rare, is increasing in frequency in the Quad-Cities. Gastroenterology practices are seeing an increase in patients diagnosed with Celiac disease and the term ‘Celiac’ has now become the single most searched-for term in gastroenterology on the internet today.  As many as two million Americans may have Celiac disease. Researchers are not certain what factors are contributing to the increased incidence, but recent Mayo Clinic research of blood samples preserved from the 1950’s indicates the prevalence of the blood markers suggesting Celiac disease has increased four-fold in the last 50-60 years

What is Celiac disease? The inside surface of most people’s small intestines resembles a dense pile carpet with the fibers, or villi, which play a vital role in the digestion of food.  But in patients with Celiac disease, their bodies attack the villi in the small intestine, sometimes to the point where the lining becomes smooth.  Without healthy villi, nutrients pass through the small intestine without being absorbed.   Patients suffering from Celiac disease do not absorb vital nutrients and can become malnourished in spite of eating the right foods in the right amounts.  These patients can become predisposed to premature bone loss, infertility, miscarriage and occasionally lymphoma and intestinal cancer, among other problems.  One-third of the population is estimated to carry a genetic marker for gluten intolerance, but only one-in-100 has the sensitivity to gluten, setting off the destruction of the intestinal villi.  

Celiac disease and infertility – Researchers who have studied women with infertility issues have found they test positive for Celiac disease-related antibodies at a rate ten times higher than the normal population.   These women do not always exhibit an iron, B-12 or folate deficiency.  This suggests there may be another mechanism besides nutritional deficiencies caused by intestinal damage impairing their ability to conceive.   Additionally, women with un-treated Celiac disease were found to enter menopause four to five years earlier than those who observed a strict gluten-free diet.

Why the increase? Researchers are not sure, but investigators are exploring what role, if any, diet and environment may play in the increase of gluten intolerance and Celiac disease.  Doctors say that triggers such as infection, pregnancy, severe emotional stress, surgery or physical injury can set off Celiac disease in those with a genetic predisposition.

Who is at risk? Caucasians of Western European descent who have a relative with Celiac disease appear to have the highest incidence of the disease.  Because Celiac disease is controlled by the same gene carrying diabetes, those with diabetes are at an increased risk. Those with other autoimmune diseases, such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis and liver disease, may also be at an increased risk.

How can I tell if I have Celiac disease? Symptoms vary and can include:

  • Gas, recurring abdominal bloating and pain
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Pale, foul-smelling or fatty stool
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Tingling or numbness in the legs due to nerve damage
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Behavioral changes (irritability in children)
  • Delayed growth in children or failure to thrive in infants
  • Pale sores inside the mouth
  • Itchy skin rash, especially around the elbows.

It is believed Celiac disease often goes un-diagnosed because these symptoms are attributed to other problems; and while most health care providers know about the disease, it is not always considered as a potential diagnosis when patients have symptoms.

Diagnosing Celiac disease: Because the symptoms of Celiac disease can mimic other diseases, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease, it is often recommended that patients suspected of having this affliction undergo an upper endoscopy (EGD) to obtain a sample of the tissue (biopsy) from the small intestine. An upper endoscopy involves passing a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera, or endoscope, through the mouth and stomach and into the small intestine.  Tiny instruments are then passed through the tube to obtain a tissue sample for the biopsy.  Blood tests to check for high levels of antibodies are available, but the results are less reliable than a biopsy.  To insure the accuracy of any tests for Celiac disease, it is important patients do not prematurely eliminate gluten-containing foods from their diet.

The GOOD news:  The vast majority of cases of Celiac disease can be effectively treated.  With adherence to a gluten-free diet, intestinal damage can be completely reversed in two years.  People with Celiac disease must remain on a gluten-free diet for life, but drugs or surgery are usually not required.  While it is true a gluten-free diet eliminates wheat-based goodies like cake, cookies and beer, there has been an explosion of non-gluten options which makes sustaining a gluten-free diet much easier. Gluten-free substitutions, once only available at health food stores and on the internet, are now available in most supermarkets and even some local restaurants.  However, even traces of gluten on cooking utensils or manufacturing equipment can be enough to trigger a reaction.

About Gastroenterology Consultants

Gastroenterology Consultants is an accomplished group of board-certified gastroenterologists and supporting physicians specializing in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal diseases. Our state-of-the-art facility with an adjacent AAAHC accredited endoscopy center is located in Moline, IL, and proudly services the Quad-Cities and surrounding communities.

At Gastroenterology Consultants, we provide a wide range of endoscopic services. Apart from routine endoscopic services, our facility offers motility studies, 24-hr pH (Bravo), Lap, therapeutic ERCP’s performed in hospital setting, endoscopic ultrasound with fine needle aspiration, Celiac blocks, video capsule, endoscopic anti-reflux procedures, ultrasound guided liver biopsies and pathology.  Most recently, GI Consultants became the first GI practice in the Quad-Cities area to offer the BARRX HALO Radio Frequency Ablation system, a minimally-invasive treatment for pre-cancerous Barrett’s esophagus.



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