Is Celiac Disease Overdiagnosed or Underdiagnosed?
02. 05. 2018
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, 1 in 100 people worldwide have the condition, and 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed.
Why Does It Now Seem That so Many People Have Celiac Disease?
Ten years ago, it was hard to find anyone with a gluten allergy. Today, it seems that everyone knows someone who has celiac disease. So is this an epidemic or is it a fad? It may be a bit of both. The irony is that most people who have celiac disease are not aware that they have the condition, while millions of people who have sworn off gluten have not been diagnosed with celiac disease.
In a Mayo Clinic study, gastroenterologists compared blood samples taken from Americans in the 1950s with blood samples from Americans today, and they determined that celiac disease was definitely increasing. The incidence of celiac disease in America is four times more common than it was 50 years ago.
How can we explain this rapid celiac surge? Some scientists say our food is to blame. Processed wheat in bread, pasta, crackers, cookies and baked goods has a higher gluten content than in decades past, and we are eating more of it than ever.
The Dangers of Undiagnosed Celiac Disease
If you have undiagnosed celiac disease, you could be at risk for long-term health complications like iron and vitamin deficiency, osteoporosis, lactose intolerance and central nervous system disorders. Celiac disease runs in families, so it is important to know if you have a family history of gluten allergies. If you have a first-degree relative with celiac disease, you have a 1 in 10 chance of developing the disease (Source: Celiac Disease Foundation).
Know the Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Family history only accounts for about 10 percent of your risk, so it is also important to be aware of the symptoms and warning signs of a gluten allergy. Make an appointment with your gastroenterologist if you experience:
• Chronic fatigue and weakness
• Abdominal pain, bloating and gas
• Nausea and vomiting
• Diarrhea, constipation or intermittent diarrhea and/or constipation
• Lactose intolerance
• Weight loss (note that celiac can also occur in obese individuals)
• Bone/joint pain
• Easy bruising of the skin
• Edema (swelling) of hands and feet
• Migraine headaches