Celiac Testing

If you’re going through celiac testing, you must be wondering about just what is celiac disease. You must be wondering about what the celiac testing will show. It is stressful to think that you might have a potentially serious medical condition. You should know that the testing process is not too difficult and the condition, if you do have it, usually responds well to dietary changes.

What Is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease and a digestive disorder. People with celiac disease have an unusual reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. In people with celiac disease, gluten triggers an immune system response that causes inflammation of the lining of the small intestine. This severe inflammation damages the hair-like structures in the small intestine called villi. These villi absorb nutrients from food people eat and when they are damaged, people may not get enough nutrition. Talk to your doctor for more information about what is celiac disease.

Blood Tests for Celiac Testing

There are a number of blood tests that may be done as a part of celiac testing. Blood tests can check for high levels of anti-endomysium antibodies (EMA) or anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTGA). Doctors generally recommend these tests in someone that is having symptoms of celiac disease. People should continue eating a diet containing gluten until they have these tests done, because eliminating gluten from the diet may causes the test results to be negative even if they really do have celiac disease.

There is also a blood test that can be done to see if someone carries the gene for celiac disease. According to the National Digestive Disorders Information Clearing House, up to 12 percent of the family members of people with celiac disease will also be affected by the condition. Therefore when someone is diagnosed with celiac, doctors often recommend their family members be tested for the gene.

Intestinal Biopsy

To confirm the diagnosis of what is celiac disease, an intestinal biopsy is usually done. A doctor performs an upper endoscopy, a procedure in which a long, thin tube called an endoscope is placed through the patient’s mouth and throat into his stomach and small intestine. A tiny camera is attached to the tube so the doctor can visualize the stomach and small intestine. An instrument is passed through the tube and used to take small samples of tissue from the wall of the small intestine. The patient is sedated during the procedure and it is not painful, although some patients have a sore throat afterward from the endoscope tube.

The excised tissue is then examined for damage to the villi, the hair-like structures of the small intestine that absorb nutrients from food. If the villi show damage characteristic of celiac disease, the diagnosis is confirmed.

Skin Biopsy

When we think about what is celiac disease, we think about digestive symptoms. However, about 15 to 25 percent of people with the condition develop a severe skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis. A skin biopsy of the rash is another form of celiac testing. If the biopsy is positive for dermatitis herpetiformis, an intestinal biopsy for celiac disease is not necessary.

If You are Diagnosed with Celiac Disease

If your tests reveal that you do indeed have celiac disease, you should know that it usually responds well to treatment. The primary treatment is to eliminate all gluten from the diet. If you have not been absorbing vitamins and minerals well due to damage to your small intestine, your doctor may prescribe some supplements. If you have dermatitis herpetiformis, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

More than celiac testing on our celiac disease symptoms page

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