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GI Condition Once Thought Rare is Common in U.S.
Date:2/2/2009

lly in the last decade, says Chey.

"When I was a medical student many years ago, we were taught that celiac disease occurred or could be found in approximately one in 500 to 1,000 individuals within the United States," he notes.

Data from within the last five years, however, show celiac disease is significantly more prevalent than previously thought. It can be identified in up to one in 133 individuals within the United States, Chey says.

People who suffer from celiac seem to have a genetic predisposition and the disease can remain latent or asymptomatic for a long time until it becomes unmasked or more clinically apparent through laboratory studies or symptoms, Chey says.

Diseases like diabetes mellitus, auto immune thyroiditis, premature bone loss or iron deficiency anemia have all been associated with celiac disease, Chey adds.

"If you are affected by any of those conditions you should be tested," Chey says.

Celiac can present itself in a variety of ways, such as abnormal laboratory values like low blood counts or abnormal thyroid function, malnutrition, weight loss or a life-threatening disease.

The more common way for it to present itself is with vague GI symptoms, such as bloating, excessive gas, loose stools or abdominal cramping.

Symptoms can be similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome, and new IBS guidelines by the American College of Gastroenterology recommend that newly diagnosed IBS patients get screened for celiac disease.

Chey warns that individuals with very long-standing, untreated celiac disease have an increased risk for developing cancer, primarily of the GI tract but others as well.

Screening is done through a blood test. Therapy consists of instituting a restricted diet devoid of gluten, which tends to inflame the small intestine and lead to more serious problems.


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SOURCE University of Michigan Health System
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