Should you be screened for celiac disease?
It’s estimated that two and a half million Americans have celiac disease and don’t know it. Because the disease leads to damage in the small intestine, those undiagnosed are at risk for long-term complications, including cancer.
That is why experts urge individuals, who may have symptoms or a family history, to be screened as early as possible for the disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder and for those affected they cannot tolerate gluten in their system. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley. The disease is hereditary; if a close relative has celiac disease, you may have a one in 10 risk of developing it.
“It is extremely important that individuals, including children, are diagnosed early,” says Dr. Esperanza Garcia-Alvarez, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “The earlier that we can remove gluten from the diet, the less likely there will be long-term negative effects on someone’s overall health.”
Because there are nearly 300 possible symptoms for celiac disease, it can be hard to diagnose. In fact, some with the disease have no symptoms. The most common symptoms in both children and adults are:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Gas and bloating
- Digestive problems
If you believe you or your child may have celiac disease, a simple screening or blood test can give you some more information. Should it suggest celiac disease, further testing can confirm the diagnosis.
Many hospitals and health care facilities provide screening opportunities for the disorder and you can also ask to be tested by your physician.
“The Pediatric Celiac Center at Lutheran General Hospital is sponsoring an upcoming screening to identify adults and children, above the age of three, who may have celiac disease,” Dr. Garcia-Alvarez says. “Our goal is to help diagnose and then support these individuals in living a gluten-free lifestyle.”
If you live in the Chicagoland area and would like to attend the upcoming free screening event, it will take place on Saturday, February 28, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Center for Advanced Care on the campus of Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. Registration is required. For more information, click here.
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!