Why Celiac Disease is Hard to Diagnose
Celiac disease is one of the most under-diagnosed medical conditions that we know of today. There are quite a few reasons for this, including the large number and diverse nature of Celiac disease symptoms and the lack of awareness of the disease both in the medical community and among the general public. While awareness of the disease and other forms of gluten intolerance is on the rise, a conclusive diagnosis can still be difficult to acquire.
Many Different Symptoms
There are literally dozens of symptoms that people with Celiac disease can exhibit. There are also people who have the disease who have no symptoms at all. This does not mean that damage is not being done, however, or that these people will not develop severe health problems later in life caused by the disease.
For those who do have symptoms, these can include things like depression, fatigue, lethargy, abdominal pain, chronic or recurring diarrhea, bloating, anxiety, vertigo and joint pain. From the diversity of this list, it’s easy to see why a diagnosis of Celiac disease can be so difficult to come by. Additionally, there are some people with Celiac disease whose only symptom is an intensely itchy rash.
Just like other Celiacs, these people can find relief from their symptoms only by adhering to a gluten free diet for life. There is also damage being done to the gastrointestinal tract of these people even though they show no digestive symptoms.
The Root of the Symptoms
Of course, just as with any other medical condition, the symptoms of Celiac disease are just the outward manifestation of what is actually going on below the surface. That’s why many of the symptoms of Celiac disease are also typical of many other medical conditions and why it can be so difficult to actually pinpoint the underlying cause.
The causes of the symptoms Celiacs suffer from are related to the way their immune system attacks gluten when it enters the body. This attack winds up damaging the villi that line the small intestine and allow nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream. This causes inflammation of the digestive track, which is what leads to the gastrointestinal symptoms that Celiacs often experience.
Many of the other symptoms associated with Celiac disease are a result of basic malnutrition. This malnutrition develops because the damaged villi in the intestine can no longer absorb the necessary vitamins and minerals from the foods that pass through them. This cannot be remedied by taking vitamin and mineral supplements either because these must still be absorbed in the same way.
What This Means for You
All of these factors combine to make it very hard to arrive at a definitive diagnosis of Celiac disease. If you think you have the disease, however, you should discuss your options with a doctor or nutritionist so that you know what your options are. Particularly if you and your doctor have ruled out other conditions like Crohn’s disease and IBS, you may want to try a gluten free diet to see how it makes you feel.