The celiac disease is an intolerance to the gliadin fraction of gluten - a grain protein found e.g. in wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt.
This leads to immunologically triggered characteristic changes in the small intestine mucous and shrinking of intestinal villi (villous atrophy), which are in charge of absorption of nutritional components. Thus severe forms of the disease frequently involves deficiency symptoms, or even disturbance of growth for cases in early childhood.
The celiac disease is diagnosed through typical blood changes (antibodies) or in the frame of a gastroscopy by taking biopsies (tissue samples) of the small intestine.
The celiac disease may show the following symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Defciency symptoms, iron deficiency as an early symptom
- 10% of the cases show skin diseases involving itching, symmetrically appearing blisters on the ellbows, knee or buttocks (dermatitis herpetiformis Duhring)
- Some cases may involve accompanying thyroid disorders (4%), liver diseases (1.5%) or diabetes mellitus (3%)
The treatment for the celiac disease is a life-long gluten-free diet. This can help improve complaints within one month; after one year antibodies disappear in most patients, histology of the intestinal mucosa normalises within two years.