Is celiac disease serious?

In this guide, we discuss whether celiac disease is serious, and the complications that can arise from celiac disease if it is not managed correctly.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes a person’s immune system to attack the lining of the intestines when they eat gluten.

This damages the intestines and makes it harder for the body to absorb nutrients from food.

Symptoms of celiac disease can vary from mild to severe and will usually improve or go away altogether when gluten is removed from the diet.

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What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

Symptoms of celiac disease can be mild in some people, but severe in others.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue

Is celiac disease serious?

Celiac disease can range from mild to severe, depending on the person.

While there is no cure for celiac disease, it can be easily managed by removing gluten from the diet entirely, and only eating gluten-free foods.

The more severe complications from celiac disease are usually seen in people who continue to eat gluten. This includes circumstances where:

  • A person has continued to eat gluten following a diagnosis of celiac disease (i.e. the condition has not been properly managed)
  • A person has mild symptoms and is therefore unaware that they have celiac disease/has not yet been diagnosed
  • A person has been misdiagnosed as having a different condition, meaning they continue to eat gluten

Complications from undiagnosed or mismanaged celiac disease (where the person continues consuming gluten) can include osteoporosis, anemia, and even certain types of cancers.

If you are experiencing symptoms that could indicate celiac disease, speak to your physician who will be able to offer guidance on next steps for testing and diagnosis.

What happens if celiac disease is left untreated?

There is no ‘treatment’ for celiac disease as such. However, the condition can be managed by removing gluten from the diet.

This means that any foods containing gluten should be avoided, including (but not limited to) bread, pasta, cereals, cookies, and cakes.

However, if a person with celiac disease continues eating gluten (i.e. if the condition is untreated), other complications can arise. These include:

  • Anemia
  • Nerve damage
  • Osteoporosis
  • Problems with fertility
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Development of other autoimmune diseases associated with celiac disease
  • Some cancers

More information on living with celiac disease, and the effects if untreated, can be found at https://celiac.org/.

What are the complications of celiac disease in adults?

Celiac disease is most likely to develop in early childhood (8-12 months), when gluten is first introduced to the diet, or in later adulthood (between 40-60 years of age).

In adults – as is the case in all people with celiac disease – complications from the condition usually arise when the person continues consuming gluten-containing foods.

Complications from celiac disease can vary depending on the person, but can include anemia, osteoporosis, nerve damage, fertility problems, and even some cancers.

Can Celiac Disease Affect Life Expectancy?

What are the complications of celiac disease in children?

Symptoms of celiac disease can arise at any age but are most likely to develop during early childhood when gluten-containing foods are first introduced to the diet (8-12 months).

Unfortunately, many children who have celiac disease are not diagnosed until they are older, because it can often be misdiagnosed as another childhood illness.

This means that children can suffer complications related to untreated celiac disease. These may include:

  • Stunted growth
  • Delayed puberty
  • Defects of the tooth enamel
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue

If you think your child may have celiac disease, you should contact your physician for advice.

However, an at-home celiac disease test can also be helpful, and the results can be shared with medical professionals to help facilitate a faster diagnosis.

An AlphaBiolabs Genetic Celiac Disease Test uses cheek swabs that are rubbed quickly and painlessly on the inside of the cheek, to test for the genes linked to celiac disease.

The test is suitable for children of all ages. However, we strongly advise that you speak to your physician before making any decisions regarding dietary changes after receiving the results.

What is the treatment for celiac disease?

Celiac disease can only be controlled by adhering to a lifelong gluten-free diet. This means that any foods containing gluten should be avoided, including (but not limited to) bread, pasta, cereals, cookies, and cakes.

If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, it is especially important to check the labels on any food you buy, as many foods (particularly processed foods) include additives and flavorings that contain gluten.

Once a person with celiac disease removes gluten from their diet, they will typically start to see a significant improvement in their health.

Gluten can also be found in some non-food products including cosmetics and certain medications.

If you think you might have celiac disease, you should speak to your physician, who can arrange further testing.

Where can I get a test for celiac disease?

If you are experiencing symptoms of celiac disease, it is recommended that you speak to your physician who will be able to advise you on the next steps for testing and diagnosis.

However, confirmatory tests for celiac disease can be invasive. For this reason, it can be helpful to take a non-invasive home celiac disease test in the first instance.

This type of test can help you rule out the possibility of having celiac disease, or get a diagnosis more quickly via your physician, depending on the results.

An AlphaBiolabs Genetic Celiac Disease Test provides an accurate and reliable way of finding out whether you carry the genes linked to celiac disease, with only a cheek swab required.

This quick and painless method of sample collection can also be performed on children of any age, who may be displaying symptoms of celiac disease. However, we strongly advise that you speak to your physician before making any decisions regarding dietary changes after receiving the results.

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