About Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by an intolerance to gluten. It's also known as celiac sprue, gluten-sensitive enteropathy, and non-tropical sprue. Gluten is the general name of the proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley and other grains derived from them.
In kids with celiac disease, gluten damages villi, the finger-like projections in the small intestine responsible for absorbing nutrients from food. When the villi are damaged, the body can't absorb nutrients the body needs to grow. If that happens, a child can become malnourished.
Celiac disease can lead to a wide variety of symptoms in different people. Infants may fail to gain weight and height as expected (a condition called failure to thrive). In older kids, the condition can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating, weight loss, fatigue, or painful skin rashes. Some people who have celiac disease experience no symptoms at all.
Doctors don't know for sure what triggers the immune system to react to gluten in people who have celiac disease. There is no cure, although researchers are working on developing enzyme pills to help with the digestion of the toxic part of gluten that causes intestinal damage.
But if your child is diagnosed with celiac disease, there are ways to minimize symptoms and any damage to the intestines.
Symptoms of celiac disease can occur at any time in a child's life. Some kids experience symptoms the first time they are exposed to gluten, while others develop symptoms later in life after consuming gluten products without a problem for years.
A first sign that an infant might have celiac disease can occur shortly after the introduction to solid foods such as cereals. An infant who's started consuming foods that contain gluten might have diarrhea and stomach pains, and stop gaining weight at a healthy pace.
Skin rashes also might appear, especially around the elbows, buttocks, and knees. Over time, the child might develop anemia and mouth sores, and become withdrawn or irritable.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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