Celiac disease is a serious immune-based disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.
When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. The damage to the intestine can lead to a variety of symptoms and result in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health.
Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods or medicines that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems.
It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications. Celiac disease is hereditary, meaning that it runs in families. It can also run in families, both in first and second degree relatives. Therefore, screening of these high risk individuals should be considered.