Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease with a large number of very different symptoms, which may not all be gastrointestinal - related to the stomach and intestines. Certain individuals with a family history or certain genes are at a higher risk, and symptoms occur after people who have these genes eat products that contain gluten in varying amounts.
Celiac disease may be associated with several other immune diseases and can lead to vitamin and other trace element deficiencies, as well as bone disease.
Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook
The symptoms of celiac disease are different from person to person. Many patients do not show any signs and discover they have the condition through testing. Others have a variety of symptoms, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Skin rash
- Vitamin deficiency
- Poor growth in adolescents
Diagnosis of celiac disease begins with a thorough physical examination and review of your medical history. At Penn State Health, your evaluation includes an assessment of your bone health and whether you have any micronutrient or vitamin deficiencies. This is done by our specialized physicians and nutritionist in the Penn State Health Celiac clinic.
Other testing may include:
- Blood tests
- Intestinal biopsy through endoscopy
- Specialized imaging to assess bone health
If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to osteoporosis, liver abnormalities, as well as being associated with depression, foggy thinking and thyroid disease. Eliminating all gluten and following the treatment plan developed by your doctor and the nutritionist results in intestinal healing and improves overall health.
Our understanding of celiac disease has advanced significantly over the past two decades. This has led to several lines of research on treatment options, which span the spectrum from medications that reduce symptoms to curbing the immune reaction caused by ingesting gluten.
More recently, doctors who specialize and do research in celiac disease have described several conditions, including gluten intolerance, nonceliac gluten sensitivity and seronegative celiac disease. These conditions are distinct from allergies or intolerance to wheat or to wheat products. There are challenges in defining some of these conditions because a large number of patients self-report these symptoms.
Why Choose Penn State Health for Care
Penn State Health Celiac Clinic
The Penn State Health Celiac Clinic at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center provides comprehensive, multidisciplinary, patient-centered care to patients diagnosed with or suspected to have celiac disease. The team includes two gastroenterologists, a clinical nurse and a celiac disease-specialized dietician who works closely with referring providers to ensure a comprehensive initial assessment and follow-up. The clinic also provides consults to referring providers and nutritional advice on following a gluten-free diet, as well as label reading to spot gluten-free foods.
The celiac disease team looks forward to working with you to help address any questions and concerns you may have. We also participate in multicenter clinical trials and will be happy to discuss appropriate trials during your visit.
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