The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced the launch of a campaign to heighten awareness of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder marked by a wide range of gastrointestinal symptoms. An independent panel of experts, convened by the NIH to assess current diagnosis, treatment, and management of the disease, found that celiac disease is more prevalent than previously thought.
People with celiac disease have trouble absorbing gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It is believed that when people are exposed to the protein gluten, the body mistakenly mounts an attack on the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine causing poor absorption of many important nutrients. People with the condition may have gas, recurring abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool, changes in weight, fatigue, anemia, and bone or joint pain. Children with celiac disease have delayed growth and failure to thrive. Treatment for celiac disease is adherence to a gluten-free diet.