Patients with celiac disease have damage to the intestinal mucosa due to chronic inflammation.
The intestinal inflammation characteristic of this disease is caused by ingestion of gluten found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats products. It's important to note that pure oats do not contain gluten, however many oat products can become contaminated with wheat, barley, and rye during the milling process.
After ingesting foods containing gluten, patients may experience GI discomfort, including abdominal distention (bloating), and flatulence.
Patients may also produce foul-smelling, fatty stools as a result of fat malabsorption in the small intestine. Stool with a high lipid content will float and have an oily appearance.
Because protein and fat absorption is affected, patients with celiac disease may lose weight due to malnutrition. A decrease in bone density and dental enamel hypoplasia may also occur.
Although less common, an itchy rash composed of bumps and blisters may appear on various parts of the body such as the skin of the face, elbows, and knees. This rash is called dermatitis herpetiformis.
Patients who are diagnosed with celiac disease should follow a strict, gluten-free diet. This means avoiding foods that contain wheat, barley, rye and oats. Although oats are typically gluten-free, they could be contaminated during the processing of other gluten-containing products. Patients must also avoid medications that contain gluten.
Individuals who have first degree relatives with celiac disease should be screened, as these individuals may also be at risk.
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