Celiac Disease

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Signs and Symptoms

It has been estimated that 1 in 100 to 150 people in the US have celiac disease, but only about 3% of this group have been diagnosed. In part, this is because symptoms may vary widely from person to person. According to the Celiac Sprue Association, only about 10% of those with celiac disease will have typical malabsorption symptoms. About 40% will have less typical symptoms and as many as 33% may not have any associated symptoms. The manifestations of celiac disease tend to vary with a person's age and stage of development. Since the same symptoms are present in a variety of other conditions, a diagnosis of celiac disease may be missed or delayed -- sometimes for years.

Signs and symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • Abdominal pain and distension
  • Iron deficiency anemia that does not respond to iron supplements
  • Bleeding tendency
  • Bloody stool
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Changes in dental enamel
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Flatulence
  • Greasy, foul-smelling stools
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

Some of these symptoms are seen in other conditions, including food allergies.

Children with celiac disease may experience failure to thrive, delayed growth and development, delayed onset of puberty, and short stature. Adults with celiac disease may also experience infertility. Many people with celiac disease have dermatitis herpetiformis, a disease that causes itchy blisters on the skin. There is also an increased risk for developing osteoporosis and intestinal lymphoma, a form of cancer.

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