Celiac disease is a digestive system problem. It damages the lining of the small intestine and makes it hard for your child’s intestines to absorb nutrients from food. If this disease is not diagnosed and treated, it can cause serious problems. Celiac disease increases your child’s risk of:
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, which means that it is a disease that causes the body to attack its own tissue. When your child has celiac disease, after she eats gluten her immune system attacks the part of the intestine that absorbs nutrients. Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, and rye grains. Gluten can also be found in oats if they are processed or packaged in factories that process wheat, barley, or rye. Also, some medicines and supplements contain gluten.
Celiac disease is inherited, which means that it’s passed from parents to children through their genes. Genes are inside each cell of the body. They contain the information that tells the body how to develop and work.
The symptoms vary a lot from one child to the next. When your child starts having symptoms, the kinds of symptoms your child has, and how severe the symptoms are, is affected by:
Digestive symptoms may include:
Because the body is not getting the nutrients it needs, your child may also have:
Some children have celiac disease but do not have any symptoms. Or they may start having symptoms after surgery, a viral infection, or severe emotional stress.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Tests may include:
The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. For most children, this diet relieves symptoms in a few weeks. The gluten-free diet lets the intestine heal and prevents more damage. The longer your child keeps eating gluten, the more the intestine is damaged and the greater the risk for long-term problems. If your child keeps eating foods that have gluten, the disease can be life threatening. Your child must follow the gluten-free diet all his life.
In children and young adults, the bowel may be completely healed after 3 to 6 months on the gluten-free diet.
A gluten-free diet contains no wheat, barley, or rye. Because the American diet is based on grains, and many processed foods contain grain-based additives, this diet can be hard to follow. You may need to work with a dietitian to help your child eat a healthy, gluten-free diet. Here are some suggestions:
Your healthcare provider may prescribe a daily gluten-free multivitamin and mineral supplement for your child. Ask your pharmacist or call the manufacturer to find out about the ingredients in your child’s medicine.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child’s healthcare provider. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.
You can get more information from: