Celiac disease is a rare and sometimes debilitating disorder of the digestive system triggered when a person ingests a protein called gluten. Gluten is typically found in a vast array of starchy processed foods such bread, pizza crust, barley wheat or rye products, and desserts such as cookies or cake. When an individual with celiac disease consumes such foods, an immediate reaction takes place in his or her immune system. This reaction has catastrophic effects on the small intestine. It causes damage to its surface, making it unable to absorb specific nutrients, which is normally a standard bodily function. When proper absorption of nutrients is not present, the person ultimately becomes malnourished. The nutrient deficiency associated with this disease can result in a host of health problems, including nervous system disorders, bone and joint abnormalities, neurological changes, and vital organ damage. If a child has the disease, sever growth abnormalities can occur for which there is no reversal.
Symptoms Associated with Celiac Disease
One of the characteristics associated with celiac disease that has long frustrated doctors all over the world is the fact that it remains asymptomatic in many cases. This means that a person may have the disease, but his or her complaints are so general that diagnosis is not made for many years. In fact, the average length of time an individual has celiac disease is nine years, before he or she is diagnosed.
In cases where symptoms are a bit more specific, they usually manifest as gastrointestinal issues such as stomachache, bloating and diarrhea that comes and goes, but never entirely ceases. For this reason, many who are afflicted with this disease are misdiagnosed. Celiac disease patients are often told they are suffering from another condition such as irritable bowel syndrome and anemia. Sometimes, due to the abdominal pain, many doctors assume a stomach ulcer may be present, and often, doctors also suspect Crohn’s disease. Some patients are even told that they are experiencing a nervous condition and given tranquilizers.
Other symptoms can include what doctors refer to as celiac depression, which is actually a malaise from the malnutrition caused by the disease. Irritability and anxiety can occur as well, which is why some doctors mis-diagnose the disease as a nervous condition. A person may experience joint and muscle pain as well as bone or dental disorders, and neuropathy–hot, burning pain in the extremities.
Celiac Disease Symptoms in Advanced Stages
When a person with celiac disease has gone perpetually undiagnosed, and malnutrition has begun to manifest, symptoms may include, severe weight loss, extreme fatigue or anemia, and pale stools that have an oily appearance and unnatural odor. In addition, arthritis and osteoporosis may be evident, due to the body’s attempt to leach nutrients from the bones to compensate for the malnutrition caused by the disease. Skin or mouth sores may be present at this stage, as well.
If a person has two or more of the above symptoms and has reason to suspect that they may indicate the presence of celiac disease, he or she should not wait, but seek medical attention promptly.