How do I know if I have Celiac Disease?

Understanding the Symptoms

Most times, those with Celiac Disease will experience symptoms. These can range from abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea (or bouts of both), headaches, joint pain, brain fog, depression, anxiety, tingling in your hands and feet, nausea, and many other discomforts. For those who experience any of the above symptoms regularly, it’s important to consider testing for Celiac Disease.

Testing for Celiac Disease

The only way to know if you have Celiac Disease is to go for testing. But what does testing involve? It includes a screening test consisting of multiple blood tests such as tTg-IgA, Total IgA, EMA. Sometimes it is called a “Celiac panel test” or a “Celiac screen”.

Further Investigation

If the testing comes back positive, you will most likely get a referral to a gastroenterologist. The specialist can then perform an endoscopy, which involves inserting a camera down your throat to look into the upper small intestine. Biopsies are then taken of the intestinal wall to check for damage.

Understanding the Results

It’s important to note that serum tests (blood tests) can be negative but histology tests positive (endoscopy and biopsy), and vice versa. This can be due to various reasons.

Genetic Testing

When serum and/or histology testing is inconclusive, genetic testing can be useful. Celiac Disease is a genetic autoimmune condition. The genes involved are HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8. As a genetic practitioner, I can assist you with testing to see if you carry these genes. However, positive genetic testing does not mean you have Celiac Disease, it just means you have the predisposed risk to develop it. It can also be used to rule out Celiac Disease.

Genetic Testing for Children

Genetic testing for Celiac Disease is also very useful if you want to check if your child/children have the genes. There is a 10-15% risk increase in immediate family members, and it increases even more from mother to daughter.

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