Condition that impairs body ability to break down certain foods that contain the protein called gluten. Immune system responds abnormally to a protein called gluten, which may lead to damage to the lining of the small intestine.
Patients with celiac disease (celiac sprue, non-tropical sprue, gluten sensitive enteropathy) have a genetic disorder in which a certain type of protein, called gluten, causes an autoimmune response when eaten. This inflammation response to the gluten causes damage to the small intestine. Symptoms of celiac disease include weight loss, abdominal bloating and cramping, diarrhea, gas, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Dermatitis herpetiformis, a skin disorder, and abnormal liver enzymes may also be seen in patients with celiac disease. Diagnosis of celiac disease is usually made based on results of specific blood tests as well as biopsies of the small intestine. The blood tests typically show elevation of certain antibodies known to be associated with celiac sprue. Biopsies of the small intestine obtained from an upper endoscopy typically show characteristic inflammation and associated damage to the intestinal lining. Although not an easy task, following a diet free from gluten allows for healing of the small intestine and typically leads to rapid and significant improvement in symptoms.