Celiac disease is immune reaction triggered by consuming gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye products. For individuals with celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune system response in the small intestine, causing inflammation. Such inflammation can permanently damage the small intestine and prevent the absorption of several vital nutrients. If left untreated, this malabsorption of nutrients can deprive the brain, liver, bones, nervous system and other organs of essential nutrients. Although there is currently no cure for celiac disease, your physician can help devise a healthy, gluten-free diet and prescribe medications to ease intestinal inflammation.
Los Angeles rheumatologist Susan A. Baker, MD, FACR has devoted her practice to providing comprehensive and compassionate treatment for individuals suffering from celiac and other related diseases. From her Beverly Hills practice, Dr. Baker is able to provide individualized guidance from diagnosis, to treatment, to aftercare.
Causes and Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is classified as an immune system disorder in which the body overacts to the presence of gluten. When an individual with celiac disease consumes gluten, the exaggerated immune reaction damages the villi that line the small intestine and absorb nutrients. Without properly functioning villi, the small intestine cannot absorb adequate amounts of essential nutrients. The signs and symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly from individual to individual. For example, even though diarrhea and rapid weight loss are telltale signs of celiac disease, only about one-third of individuals report this. In fact, twenty percent of people with the condition experience constipation and another ten percent are obese. The following is a list of symptoms associated with celiac disease:
- Stomach pain, particularly after eating
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Rapid, unexplained weight loss
- Anemia that results from iron deficiency
- Loss of bone density (osteoporosis)
- Softening of the bone (osteomalacia)
- Itchy or blistered skin rashes (dermatitis herpetiformis)
- Erosion of tooth enamel
- Chronic headaches
- Persistent fatigue
- Joint pain and swelling
- Acid reflux and/or heartburn
- Malfunctioning of the nervous system, evidenced by tingling in the fingers or toes or loss of sensation in the extremities
Celiac Disease Treatment Options
Diet – Adopting a strict, nutritionally balanced gluten-free diet can effectively treat celiac disease. Barley, bulgur, graham flour, malt, rye, semolina, spelt, and durum all contain wheat and should be avoided by individuals with celiac disease. Your rheumatologist can aid in planning a well balanced, gluten free diet. Once gluten is removed from the diet, intestinal inflammation and other symptoms of celiac disease will begin to slowly dissipate
Vitamins and Mineral Supplements – Depending on the severity of the nutritional deficiencies caused by celiac disease, your physician may recommend taking oral vitamins and mineral supplements. Typically, these supplements are intended to increase the level of calcium, folate, iron, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, vitamin K, and/or zinc in your system.
Prescription Medications – For some individuals with celiac disease, the damage to the small intestines is so severe that steroids may be necessary to help control inflammation. Steroids are typically only taken for a period of time in order to ease severe symptoms of celiac disease while the small intestine heals.
Q: What is dermatitis herpetiformis?
A: Dermatitis herpetiformis is a common symptom of celiac disease that features an itchy, blistery skin rash on the elbows, knees, torso, scalp, and buttocks. Proper treatment for the underlying celiac disease will also treat dermatitis herpetiformis.
Q: When should I see a doctor?
A: If you experience symptoms of celiac disease or general digestive discomfort for more that two weeks, you should consult an experienced rheumatologist or internal medicine specialist.
Q: How is celiac disease diagnosed?
A: Your rheumatologist may request a complete medical history and need to perform a blood test and/or endoscopy of the small intestines for a proper diagnosis.
To learn more about celiac disease treatment, visit WebMD.com.
Contact Beverly Hills Rheumatologist and Internal Medicine Specialist Today
Susan A. Baker truly is an expert when it comes to diagnosing and managing the symptoms of celiac disease. Dr. Baker has helped countless individuals regain control of their body and restore their quality of life. If you would like to schedule an appointment in the Los Angeles area or address any questions, contact Dr. Baker at (310) 274-7770 at your earliest convenience.
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