Celiac disease

What is it?

Celiac disease is a disease that causes inflammation in the small intestine (intestinal tract) as a result of eating foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat and some other cereals. In susceptible people, the immune system reacts to the presence of gluten by producing antibodies that damage intestinal villi, i.e. structures that absorb nutrients. The inflammatory stimulus causes flattening of intestinal villi and, as a result, a decrease in the surface area absorbing nutrients. Celiac disease is more common in patients with other autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes or thyroiditis, as well as in first-degree relatives of patients with celiac disease.

Which are the symptoms?

The main signs and symptoms of the disease are diarrhea, bloating or abdominal pain, weight loss and vitamin deficiency. There are atypical forms characterized by symptoms such as anemia, osteoporosis, arthritis, infertility, neurological symptoms or, in children, growth retardation. In some cases, the disease may be asymptomatic and may be detected accidentally during gastroscopy. Celiac disease is a benign disease, but if it is not diagnosed in time, it can predispose to the development of malignant diseases such as intestinal carcinoma or lymphoma.

  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • weight loss
  • anemia
  • vitamin deficiency
  • dermatitis

How is it diagnosed?

The first test for the diagnosis of celiac disease is a blood test to detect antibodies to trans-glutaminase. The diagnosis is confirmed by gastroscopy, which makes it possible to examine the first portion of the small intestine (dodecadactylon) and take a biopsy to detect damage to the intestinal wall by gluten. In some difficult-to-diagnose cases, a genetic test may be useful.

Suggested exams

How is it treated?

The treatment of celiac disease consists in a completely gluten-free diet. It is allowed to eat foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as potatoes, corn and rice, or foods that have been processed to remove the gluten contained in them. The exclusion of gluten from the diet alone in most cases restores the intestinal surface. Therefore, it is important to completely exclude gluten from the diet, since even small contamination of this protein, although it does not inflict symptoms, can damage the mucous membrane. After diagnosis, in the presence of vitamin deficiency, dietary supplements of iron and vitamins are indicated. In rare cases, at refractory forms that do not respond in a timely manner to a strict diet, medication therapy with cortisone or other immunosuppressive drugs may be required.

Where do we treat it?

Within the San Donato Group, you can find Celiac disease specialists at these departments:

Are you interested in receiving the treatment?

Contact us and we will take care of you.