May 17 2016
For a disease that can so drastically harm an individualâ€™s quality of life — and even cut it short! â€“ celiac disease remains stubbornly difficult to diagnose. In fact, one resource suggests that an estimated 95% of Americans with celiac disease havenâ€™t been diagnosed. Do you experience common symptoms associated with celiac disease or have a close family member with the disease? It may be time for you to get tested.
Why is Celiac Disease so Difficult to Diagnose?
Autoimmune diseases, like celiac, are notoriously difficult to diagnose. Unlike a straightforward disease like the chicken pox, celiac doesnâ€™t present with clear-cut and consistent symptoms. When your immune system is out of whack, your symptoms may wax and wane and present in all sorts of different ways. It is easy to overlook consistent fatigue as too much job stress or to blame an episode of diarrhea on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Many people with celiac disease donâ€™t present symptoms at all, or their symptoms are not debilitating enough to raise a red flag at the doctorâ€™s office. Even when a patient IS experiencing significant symptoms, celiac disease is often misdiagnosed as lactose intolerance or IBS.
When Should You Be Tested for Celiac Disease
Too often, a test for celiac disease is a last resort after symptoms become extreme and all other tests and treatments have failed. Iâ€™ve read far too many stories of people who suffered with the terrible symptoms of celiac disease for years longer than necessary, simply because their doctor never thought to test them.
If you are experiencing any of the most common symptoms of celiac disease, you should consider asking your doctor for a test. Remember, everyone experiences celiac disease differently. You may experience some, all, or none of these symptoms and still have celiac. Additionally, just because these symptoms go away doesnâ€™t mean the disease is gone. Celiac is incurable.
Common Symptoms of Celiac Disease:
- Regular episodes of diarrhea (especially after eating gluten)
- Weight loss or difficulty putting on weight
- Chronic or regular episodes of fatigue
Autoimmunity also has a strong genetic link, which means you are at an increased risk of celiac disease if someone in your immediate family has celiac disease or any form of autoimmune disease, including: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or Hashimotoâ€™s disease. According to Quest Diagnostics, you have a one in 22 chance of having celiac disease if an immediate family member has also been diagnosed.
Get Tested for Celiac Disease
It is impossible for you to know if you have celiac disease until you get tested. Fortunately, the available tests can answer this question with finality. The first step is usually a blood test (most likely a tTG-IgA test). If this test indicates the possible presence of celiac, your doctor will then likely biopsy the small intestine, which can confirm the diagnosis.
Donâ€™t be afraid to ask your doctor for the initial blood test, especially if you have a family history of autoimmunity. Not every doctor understands celiac disease or how contrary the symptoms can be. Sometimes it is up to the patient to be their own best advocate!
* Note: In case it wasnâ€™t clear from the lack of â€œMDâ€ after my name, I am not a doctor. This article represents my opinion, not medical device. If you think that you might have celiac disease, only a licensed physician can make that diagnosis. Speak with your doctor.