With the recent increase in discussion surrounding issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and gluten sensitivity, a term that many Americans hear in conversation is “Celiac Disease.” Friends and family sometimes urge those experiencing GI discomfort to be tested for Celiac Disease, and loved ones listen and nod. But what exactly is Celiac Disease? Should you be tested? How can a gastroenterologist help if you are diagnosed?
Celiac Disease is not your standard sensitivity; instead, Celiac is a heritable auto-immune disorder in which the introduction of gluten causes the immune system to attack the small intestine. Because of this, sufferers endure an onslaught of often painful symptoms if they do not change to a gluten-free diet. It is also a potentially frustrating and difficult disease to diagnose, as the outward symptoms may seem vague and potentially caused by a number of other GI issues. For this reason, Celiac Disease is often misdiagnosed as generalized IBS if the sufferer is not tested.
Celiac Disease is uncommon, affecting only an estimated 1% of people globally. However, if one of your first-degree blood relatives—your parent, sibling or child—is diagnosed with Celiac Disease, your risk of developing Celiac Disease jumps to 1 in 10.
If you have been diagnosed or simply need to be tested, a gastroenterologist can help. In addition to performing the necessary blood tests to determine whether you suffer from Celiac Disease, the gastroenterologist can guide you through the proper management of your symptoms and long-term care of your condition.