Celiac disease diagnosis a simple blood test classic symptoms positive result
Classic symptoms of celiac disease
Waiting for a celiac disease diagnosis? Have you been feeling ill for a while? Have all the classic symptoms of celiac disease? Sometimes getting as far as a clear diagnosis can feel like it takes forever. Keep going! It's worth doing it the end - for your own peace of mind at finally discovering what the problem is as well as for your health.
The first stage in celiac disease diagnosis is usually a simple blood test. If celiac disease is present, the
body's defence mechanisms will have been attacking the gluten cells in the intestines (thus damaging the intestines). A simple (and cheap) blood test is initially necessary to determine whether those defensive antibodies are there.
This blood test, however, does not lead to a definitive celiac disease diagnosis. A positive result can
sometimes be caused by other things so it is said only to show a likelihood of celiac disease.
The next stage is a more complicated procedure, whereby an endoscopy determines whether or not damage has been done to the lining of the intestines, and the extent of that damage. This gives a clear celiac disease diagnosis.
Normally, our intestines are covered with millions of microscopic villi; little bumps which increase the surface area and enable you to absorb more of the nutrients from food. With celiac disease, the body's natural defence mechanisms attack gluten whenever it comes into the intestines. This damages these villi and flattens them so nutrients cannot be absorbed properly (which is why some celiac children fail to grow as they should).
With an endoscopy, a small camera is put down the throat to look at the top of the intestines, and a biopsy is taken of a few cells to observe the state of those villi. This is done as a day patient in the hospital, and for children is usually done under a general anaesthetic. While it is not painful, it can be a bit uncomfortable.
Although this may seem quite a big thing to go through if you already feel sure of having celiac disease, with clear symptoms and a positive blood test, doctors do call the biopsy the 'gold standard' celiac disease diagnosis.
One of the hardest parts of the whole business when we went through it with our young son was the fact that although he had classic symptoms of celiac disease, and his blood tests showed a 'strong likelihood', we had to keep him on a gluten containing diet until after the biopsy had taken place. In our case this meant a whole month of constant tummyaches and lethargy that I could have prevented, and it was so difficult feeding him food that I knew was effectively damaging him.
We were encouraged to carry on and get the definitive celiac disease diagnosis simply because as he gets older he may well challenge it, and want to start eating gluten containing food again, and had we not gone for the endoscopy now, he may well have had to go through the whole thing again in his late teens. In the UK, a definitive celiac disease diagnosis also means he gets some gluten free food on prescription, which is a huge help.
As soon as the endoscopy is done, you can start a gluten free diet. If the results come back clear you can always start eating a 'normal' diet again, but you are reasonably sure of the results, you may want to start a gluten free diet immediately. My son did this and as far as I am aware he hasn't had a gluten meal since he woke up from his anaesthetic.
Four months later he has the energy to compete in triathlons and doesn't get tummy-aches any more.
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