More than 2 million people in America have celiac disease, a digestive and autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and damage to the small intestine.
Celiac disease affects people of all ages, genders and races, and it can be hereditary. Those suffering from the disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in:
When people with celiac disease consume gluten, their immune systems attack the small intestine and damage the inner lining which is used to absorb nutrients from food. Because the body is not absorbing nutrients, people with celiac disease suffer from malnourishment and other health complications.
The UPMC Celiac Disease Center offers its patients multidisciplinary care. Our dieticians are some of the finest in the country and work with our gastroenterologists to help decrease our patients’ symptoms.
Symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person. Some people with celiac disease experience no symptoms at all. However, the most common symptoms among children and adults are:
Infants and young children with celiac disease are more likely to have digestive symptoms but can also suffer from the following:
Adults are also susceptible to digestive symptoms, but more commonly suffer from one or more of the following:
The UPMC Celiac Disease Center is also one of the only centers in the world to have an integrated psychosocial clinic through the Visceral Inflammation and Pain (VIP) Center. The VIP team provides comprehensive assessments to help patients cope with psychological symptoms, like depression and anxiety, which is directly linked to gastrointestinal conditions.
If a patient is experiencing symptoms of celiac disease, a doctor will administer tests and procedures to diagnose the disease:
Celiac disease is chronic and there is no known cure. People living with celiac disease must consume a gluten-free diet in order to eliminate symptoms.
Gluten is sometimes hidden in processed foods so those with celiac disease are advised to always check nutrition labels and ingredients. However, a person should not begin a gluten-free diet without being diagnosed.
In addition, celiac disease should not be confused with a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance.
Breastfeeding can prevent celiac disease by 50% by introducing small amounts of gluten to a baby. If your child is diagnosed with celiac disease, UPMC Celiac Disease Center is partnered with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to provide a full continuum of care.