An autoimmune disease characterized by disorders of intestinal digestion and absorption associated with intolerance of gluten contained in grains - this is the one-sentence definition of celiac disease, also known as visceral disease.
Although not so long ago it was considered a disease of young children, it turns out that it is increasingly affecting adults, even those as young as 40 and older. Women account for 70% of all cases.
Research in recent years indicates that the most likely cause of the disease is a defect in the cell membrane of enterocytes. Genetic conditions and even severe gastrointestinal infections, intense stress or pregnancy are also mentioned.
Why is gluten to blame?
Gluten, penetrating the weakened intestinal barrier, triggers a series of reactions from the immune system - infiltration of the small intestinal mucosa and the appearance of antibodies in the serum. The toxic effect of gluten leads to the disappearance of the villi of the small intestine, which are tiny protrusions of the mucosa, responsible for the absorption of nutrients. As a result, food is absorbed in minimal quantities, leading to a variety of clinical symptoms. We then speak of visceral disease, or celiac disease.
The most common symptoms observed are chronic diarrhea, abdominal girth enlargement, loss of appetite, vomiting, cachexia. Secondary symptoms may appear in the clinical picture, such as anemia, rickets, hypovitaminosis, cow's milk protein intolerance. Untreated celiac disease leads to serious health problems - including osteoporosis, mental disorders and cancers of the digestive system.
The silent form of celiac disease presents diagnostic difficulties. It mainly affects older children and adults. There may be symptoms rarely associated with celiac disease, such as curvature of the spine, anemia, delayed puberty, stomatitis, herpes.
InPoland, only 3-5% of celiac disease cases are detected. The remaining patients suffer without being aware of their disease. And although celiac disease cannot be cured, it is possible to live with it normally if strict rules are followed.
Diagnosis of celiac disease
In the diagnosis of autoimmune diseases, autoantibody testing plays an important role. Thanks to modern laboratory tests, celiac disease can be diagnosed or ruled out. This is done by special serological tests that detect autoantibodies produced in the body in response to food proteins present in cereals. It is these antibodies that cause inflammation and destruction of the intestinal mucosa.
The PolyCheck test quantitatively tests the concentration of 2 antibodies in a patient's serum whose titers increase in autoimmune diseases: deamidated gliadin IgA, transglutaminase IgA (tTG IgA). The test can be performed in children and adults with a history of suspected celiac disease, those suffering from chronic diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain, mood swings, iron and vitamin deficiencies. It can be performed in family members of a person with celiac disease, patients diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, people with anemia, as this is one of the symptoms of the disease.
Thanks to sensitive markers, antibodies can be detected many years before the onset of clinical symptoms of celiac disease. Therefore, patients found to have antibodies should get tested regularly.
The only way to treat celiac disease is to follow a strict gluten-free diet for life. A consultation with a nutritionist will allow you to properly establish your diet.
REMEMBER: Every diagnostic test result should be interpreted by a specialist. Only a doctor, based primarily on the clinical history and, in addition, laboratory tests, can make a correct diagnosis.