Celiac Disease

  1. What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a condition where the surface of the bowel is damaged by gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, or use products that contain gluten, it triggers an immune response in the small intestine. This results in damage to the lining (villi) of the small intestine and prevents normal absorption of nutrients.

For people that have celiac disease, gluten causes normal villi in the small intestine (shown below on left) to become damaged (shown below on right).


  1. What are the symptoms of celiac disease?
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Poor growth
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating
  • Oily, fatty or frothy stools
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Joint paint
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis occurs in about 10% of people with celiac disease. This is a very itchy, burning skin rash, normally found on the elbows, knees and buttocks. It looks like groups of small blisters that erupt and turn into small red lesions.


  1. What causes celiac disease?

The exact cause of celiac disease is not known.

Celiac disease may be triggered by surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or stress.

Celiac disease often runs in families, so if you have a first degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) with celiac disease, you have a slightly higher risk of getting it.

A few medical conditions can also put you at higher risk, such as: Type 1 diabetes, other autoimmune diseases, Down, Turner or Williams Syndrome, or deficiency in immunoglobulin A (IgA).

  1. How is celiac disease diagnosed?

Your doctor may recommend a blood screening test called tissue transglutaminase (tTG) which is a reliable indicator of whether or not you have celiac disease.

However, a diagnosis of celiac disease can only be confirmed by obtaining a tissue sample (biopsy) from the small intestine using endoscopy.

Both blood tests and biopsy results may be inaccurate if your child has been on a gluten-free diet for a period of time.  Therefore it is important that your child continues to consume gluten prior to these tests.

  1. What is the treatment for celiac disease?

There are no medications to treat celiac disease and it is a life-long condition. Symptoms can be managed and complete healing can occur by following a strict gluten-free diet.  A person with celiac disease that does not follow a gluten-free diet may experience malnutrition, anemia, increased risk of autoimmune diseases, and some cancers.

Quick Links:

FAQ – Celiac Disease
Cartoongi – Celiac Disease Video


REMINDER: This information is intended to provide general information and should not be used to base a diagnosis or treatment. Please consult the doctors about your specific condition and the approach for treatment.