- All across the world, 1 out of every 100 people is affected by Celiac disease.
- This autoimmune disease can be triggered at any age by gluten-rich food or medicines.
- Symptoms of the disease are evident in both adults and children.
- Without treatment, celiac disease can prompt other health issues.
Are you affected by Celiac disease? Then, it’s probably your genes playing the game with your body. And you probably already know the result. You cannot digest gluten-rich food, and its consumption affects your small intestine.
Do you know that 1% of the population is suffering from the same condition? You’ll be shocked to know that in America alone, 2.5 million people have Celiac disease and no diagnosis. And do you know what it means? Long-term health complications!
What is Celiac disease?
Let’s quickly understand what this condition means. The first thing to understand is that gluten is a group of proteins. It is found in some cereal grains, like wheat, barley, rye, and triticale.
If you have this disease, then gluten consumption will set off an immune response in your body. As a result, your small intestine will be attacked. This will lead to the damage of the small projections called villi, which harms the absorption of nutrients.
This disease can run in the family. People have a higher chance of developing if their first-degree relatives, like parents and siblings, have it. Celiac disease can be triggered at any age; and, without treatment, it can cause serious problems.
There are various symptoms of Celiac disease, visible in both adults and children.
a) In Adults:
In the case of adults, Celiac disease can cause Dermatitis herpetiformis, resulting in rashes. The symptoms of Celiac disease include digestive problems, like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, vomiting, etc., as well as gas and abdominal ache.
Some symptoms, however, are entirely unrelated to digestive issues. These can include weight loss, fatigue, headache, canker sores, joint pain, etc.
More severe signs of Celiac disease include anemia, osteoporosis, osteomalacia, hyposplenism, body imbalance, and nervous system problems.
b) In Children:
Children are usually more prone to showing digestive problems. These include swollen tummy and odorous stool, among other issues.
Children with Celiac disease cannot absorb nutrients. As a result, their growth and development can be hampered, and even lead to attention deficiency and learning disabilities.
If you have Celiac disease, your chances of having coronary artery diseases become two times higher. You also become four times likely to get small bowel cancer. And, if you leave the condition to go undiagnosed or leave it untreated, it can lead to other serious health problems, which include:
- Diabetes (Type 1)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Under-developed body
- Heart problems
- Intestinal cancer
- Lactose intolerance
- Deficiency of vitamins and minerals
- Gallbladder issues
- Intestinal lymphoma
- Leukoencephalopathy, etc.
Celiac disease can increase your chances of autoimmune diseases. In comparison, the prevalence of the conditions among people with Celiac disease can be as much as 15%.
It’s almost double the percentage of the general population who get autoimmune conditions.
Furthermore, 1/4th of them are women, and the reason behind this is unexplained.
Now, there are different kinds of autoimmune diseases. These are conditions that affect the body instead of the germs or foreign bodies. The antibodies produced by the immunity system start to attack the healthy tissues in the body.
The autoimmune diseases commonly linked with Celiac diseases are Diabetes (Type 1) and autoimmune thyroiditis. Scientists believe that your possibility of developing both autoimmune diseases and Celiac disease largely depends on your genetic predisposition.
a) Type-1 Diabetes
Diabetes is a pancreatic disease. Studies show that the co-occurrence of Type-1 diabetes and Celiac disease is about 8-10%. Now, the symptoms are easy to ignore in the initial stages.
They can include excessive hunger and thirst, increased frequency of urination, and weight loss. Eventually, it can lead to weakness, blurry vision, shivering, disorientation, and even coma.
There are two forms of autoimmune thyroiditis which commonly occur among Celiac disease sufferers –
1. Grave’s Disease
2. Hashimoto’s Disease
Grave’s disease is basically when your thyroid is overactive. Its symptoms include loss of weight, diarrhea, sleeplessness, anxiety, rapid pulse, protrusion of eyes, constant feeling of warmth and humidity, etc.
Hashimoto’s disease is one of the causes of an underactive thyroid. Symptoms of this disease include gain of weight, fatigue, forgetfulness, hair loss, constipation, feeling cold, drowsiness, fuzzy mental state, etc.
c) Addison’s Disease
Now, this is an uncommon medical condition of the adrenal gland. Celiac disease is significantly present among people with Addison’s disease. Symptoms of the condition include low sugar level in the blood, low blood pressure, and anemia.
You can also suffer from loss of weight, tiredness, reduced appetite, skin darkness, sensitivity to the sunlight, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, etc. in this condition.
d) Autoimmune Hepatitis
This condition affects the liver. Quite often, the symptoms are confused as the signs of an alcoholic liver condition. These symptoms include discomfort in the abdomen, fatigue, vomiting, itchiness, and bloating.
Other major signs of hepatitis are the yellowing of skin, nails, and eyes, and the enlargement of the liver. Other results of hepatitis are skin tumors, body ache, fever, cirrhosis, etc.
e) Myasthenia Gravis
Myasthenia Gravis is a condition that involves muscle functions, such that it impairs the nerve impulses sent to the muscles. Signs of this disease include muscle weakness and tiredness, which increases with the day, higher voice pitch.
Other symptoms include unsteady disposition drooping eyelids, painful swallowing, double vision, etc., as well as an enlarged thymus gland.
f) Pernicious Anemia
In simple words, this is the deficiency of Vitamin B-12. This condition damages the stomach lining and causes an intrinsic factor deficiency, hampering the absorption of vitamin B-12.
Symptoms of this condition may be tiredness, tingling sensations in hand and feet, yellow tinge on the skin, soreness of the tongue. You can also face depression, loss of memory, body imbalance, breathing problem, and palpitations.
g) Raynaud’s Phenomenon
Raynaud’s Phenomenon is a condition that affects the blood vessels in the body. It usually occurs with other autoimmune diseases.
Common symptoms of this condition may include spasms during cold, super-sensitivity to cold, and hands and feet turning bluish to reddish.
Scleroderma is a condition that scares the tissues of the gastrointestinal tract, muscles, lungs, kidneys, and skin. It can cause tightness and thickness skin, redness and swelling of fingers, and muscle pains.
Other symptoms may include breathing problems, weakness, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, etc.
i) Sjogren’s Syndrome
Sjogren’s Syndrome is yet another autoimmune disease that commonly concurs with Celiac disease. It affects the glands that secrete mucus. This reduces the excretions of waste from the body.
One of the most common symptoms is the dryness of otherwise moistened parts of the body, like eyes, mouth, vagina, sinuses, etc. It can even affect your organs, joints, and blood cells. Other symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, seizures, pleuritis, and pericarditis, to name a few.
This condition can affect anything from skin, muscles, and joints to internal organs, blood vessels, and hearing. Accordingly, symptoms will vary.
Symptoms vary depending on the organs involved. In general, you are likely to suffer from fatigue, anemia, muscle pain, stiff joints, rashes, seizures, etc., among other symptoms.
You must remember that this is not an exhaustive list of the autoimmune diseases that can develop with Celiac disease. If you notice the symptoms persistently and repeatedly, or face any other unexplained sign, it’s time for you to get diagnosed and get help.
Apart from autoimmune diseases, you can develop other conditions, too, which can be associated with Celiac disease. Let’s take a quick look at the list.
Celiac disease hampers the immune system, and the white blood cells or lymphocytes are an essential part of it. So, it is possible for this condition to set off lymphoma, i.e., cancer of the white blood cells.
This is true only if you get diagnosed with Celiac disease after a long period of no treatment, when the condition has already damaged your intestines.
b) Fertility problems
Women with Celiac disease may develop infertility and menstrual problems. This is mainly true in the case of an untreated condition of Celiac disease. Such women have difficulty conceiving a child.
They also have a higher possibility of miscarriage if they do manage to get pregnant. Other pregnancy-related problems that women with Celiac disease suffer from may include retarded growth of the baby during pregnancy, besides anemia, hypertension, etc.
c) Nervous system disorders
If you are suffering from Celiac disease, your risk of developing neuropathy is much higher. You can suffer from a reduced or lack of control over your movements.
This can be the result of deficient vitamins or minerals. It is also possible that you have some other condition of the immune system.
You already know that Celiac disease can damage your small intestine. This organ communicates with the rest of your body parts at all times. So, people with this condition often develop problems in their liver, pancreas, have liver, or gallbladder.
Strangely, though, it is not exactly clear how Celiac disease is linked with these problems.
d) Crohn’s Disease
You know that Celiac disease can cause intestinal inflammations. Crohn’s disease, too, can do the same. As a result, the symptoms for both are quite similar. Both result in the pain in the abdomen, along with diarrhea.
So, it may become a challenge to differentiate between the two. Only a thorough examination can help to diagnose the exact condition correctly. You may have to go through endoscopy, biopsy, blood tests, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease tests for this.
You should remember that if you have an Irritable Bowel Disease, then you can develop Crohn’s disease.
Researchers conclude that people suffering from celiac disease are more likely to develop Crohn’s disease, as compared to others. So, if you have anemia and diarrhea, besides Celiac disease, make sure to get checked for Irritable Bowel Disease.
e) Dermatitis Herpetiformis
Dermatitis herpetiformis, commonly known as Duhring’s disease, is a common skin condition among people with Celiac disease. It prevails among 10-15% of people with Celiac disease. One of the main symptoms of this condition is eczema.
This condition leads to blisters and knots on the skin, which look a lot like herpes lesions. But don’t get confused – these have nothing to do with herpes. Lesions, especially in the genitals and the mouth, are common in this condition, especially in men.
People of any age group can be affected by this condition. But the signs of the disease usually start to appear for the first time when you’re 30-40 years old. Rashes on the elbows, buttocks, knees, scalp, and upper body.
f) Hepatitis B
A liver condition that is commonly associated with Celiac disease is Hepatitis B. Further, a lack of proper nutrition or an overgrowth of bacteria can trigger hepatic damage, like cirrhosis. But it doesn’t end here.
If you have Celiac disease, the vaccine for Hepatitis B is going to be less effective for you. While it is safe to use, your body will refuse to respond adequately to the vaccine. The chances are high that this is genetically influenced.
Researchers have observed that people who are non-responsive to this vaccine are likely suffering from Celiac disease. The chances of your body responding to the vaccine is lower if you’re continuing gluten consumption.
This means that Celiac disease, when active or untreated, can hamper the body’s reaction to the vaccine.
g) Oral Health
Celiac disease patients, irrespective of their age, frequently suffer from mouth ulcers. In fact, those people with continued exposure to gluten-rich food may even develop cancers in the mouth, including their esophagus and mouth.
It is possible to develop dental problems because of Celiac disease, especially in children. Their enamel may be damaged, and they can get more cavities. The development of teeth in children may also get slowed down.
h) Mental Health
If you leave Celiac disease untreated, you run the risk of developing psychological issues. In the initial stage, it may be difficult to diagnose psychiatric conditions, and it can even go undiagnosed.
The chances of a Celiac disease patient to develop a neurological disorder is around 10-22% higher. Symptoms may include –
2. Withdrawal from people
3. Feeling sad without any reason
5. Erratic patterns of sleep or food consumption
6. Mood swings
7. Drop of energy levels
8. Excessively high energy
9. Loss of interest in all activities
11. Agitation or fear
12. Low concentration
13. Suicidal or homicidal thoughts
14. Experiencing non-existent sights and sounds, etc.
Such emotional or behavioral changes take place for a long time and become more severe. It is important to seek help from mental health experts to avoid severe impairment of mental faculties or neurological disorders.
There are several health conditions that may develop in association with Celiac disease. Your condition may either be the cause or the effect of such related conditions. So, it is important to start controlling your condition at an early stage.
Otherwise, you can develop health problems whose treatment burden can only be compared to that of kidney problems in the last stage. If you develop other Celiac-related conditions, the treatment course will depend on your disease.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for the Celiac disease through medicine, surgery, etc. But there’s good news. You can still keep all symptoms at bay and can prevent the disease from becoming fatal. You just need to avoid gluten at all costs and stick to a gluten-free diet.