Celiac disease is an autoimmune based, chronic inflammatory condition of the gi tract. People with celiac have a dysfunctional immune system response to the protein gluten that leads inflammation and damage of small intestinal mucosa. When the gluten, which is commonly found in grains like wheat, oats, brain, barley is consumed, antibodies and antigens signal the immune system to attack. Overtime this attack on the digestive tract can lead to decreased absorption of nutrients, diarrhea, gi upset, and other less common symptoms such as anemia and malnutrition.
About 1% of population worldwide have celiac disease and only 5-10% of those with the condition are aware of having it. The incidence of Celiac is on the rise and is thought to have tripled over past 50 years. This may be explained partly due to higher awareness of the condition and better diagnosis methods, but could also be due to an increase in other risk factors associated with CD such as diabetes.
Celiac disease results from interplay of both genetic and environmental factors. CD usually develops early in life, but in many patients symptoms may not appear till later in life. It occurs twice as often in females than males because the HLA gene loci DQ2/DQ8 are more frequently found in females than in male patients.Prevalence is higher in individuals suffering from anemia, diabetes, and other autoimmune diseases. Celiac patients are also at increased risk of cancers such as small intestinal adenocarcinoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Many patients with Celiac suffer from comorbid conditions such as cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and autoimmune diseases. Adult CD patients have also been reported to be at increased risk of sepsis, which is infection of the blood. Up to 10% of patients have neurological symptoms including epilepsy, dementia, migraine, memory/attention impairment, and polyneuropathy.