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Coeliac disease: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About coeliac disease

Coeliac disease, also called ‘tropical sprue’ is a serious disorder wherein the affected individual is not able to tolerate a specific protein called ‘gluten’ resulting in various clinical features. Gluten is a normal constituent of wheat, rye, barley and oat and it may cause intestinal damage in individuals affected with coeliac disease.

Coeliac disease: Incidence, age and sex

Coeliac disease is an infrequent autoimmune disorder which may be encountered in any age group. This disease may follow a familial course and therefore be present since birth. However, the clinical features may manifest anytime, from infancy to adulthood.

Signs and symptoms of coeliac disease: Diagnosis

The clinical spectrum may differ from patient to patient, depending upon the age group. Children including infants, young kids and teenagers may exhibit pain in the abdomen, nausea, bloody diarrhoea and mouth ulcers. Most of the affected children are anaemic, malnourished and may show stunted growth and late pubertal age. Such children are extremely restless and irritable in nature which may result from nutritional deficiency.

Adults may present with vague features like constant fatigue, loss of appetite, malaise and mood changes. Coeliac disease may be associated with other disorders like lactose intolerance, allergic skin problems and osteoporosis. The diagnosis may be established after detailed history, blood tests and intestinal biopsy, if needed.

Causes and prevention of coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is generally inherited from the parents and it may be present since birth, in affected individuals. However, it may manifest after being triggered by certain factors like emotional stress, surgery or pregnancy.

Coeliac disease: Complications

Malnourishment, anaemia, stunted growth, short stature and hair loss are common features of nutritional deficiencies which may be encountered frequently in affected individuals. Other complications include short stature and benign cancer of intestines.

Coeliac disease: Treatment

The best part of coeliac disease is that it can not only be controlled but also its destructive effect on intestines may be reversed with optimal treatment. The main step in management is to follow a gluten-free diet. It is advisable to consult a dietician who would make an adequate gluten-free diet which is needed lifelong. It is essential to have a well-balanced diet to avoid nutritional deficiencies.