Did you know that one in every 133 people have celiac disease, making it one of the most common genetic conditions in the world?
What exactly, you may ask, is celiac disease? It’s a condition in which your body’s immune system reacts against the protein gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley, preventing you from properly digesting food products that contain them.
It’s bad enough that this autoimmune disorder affects adults, but when a child is diagnosed with celiac disease, it means they may not be getting the nutrients they need to grow and stay healthy. In fact, celiac disease can result chronic and life-threatening damage to the intestines and lead to a greater risk of other nutritional and immune-related disorders for your child.
Here are some key facts about child celiac disease you should be aware of.
Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease in Children
While the actual cause of celiac disease has not been determined, researchers have found a genetic component to the disorder. A person with celiac disease is more likely to pass this multi-symptom, multi-system disorder to their children or have a sibling who shares the disease. Family members with an autoimmune disorder are also at greater risk of developing celiac disease, especially if they have associated conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, or down syndrome.
Symptoms associated with celiac disease can vary greatly based on a child’s age. In infants and toddlers, for example, symptoms include:
- Poor growth
- Abdominal distention
- Diarrhea with foul smell
In school-age children, vomiting is less common. Instead, symptoms include:
- Stomach aches or abdominal pain
- Abdominal distention
- Weight loss or difficulty gaining weight
In older children and teenagers, symptoms include:
- Stunted growth
- Weight loss
- Delayed puberty
- Aching pain in bones or joints
- Chronic fatigue
- Recurring headaches or migraines
- Itchy skin rashes
- Recurring mouth sores
Diagnosing Celiac Disease in Children
At Children’s Medical Center in Tampa, Florida, our clinical experts use a variety of diagnostic tests to determine if your child has celiac disease, including blood tests, endoscopy, and biopsy.
Since some children may not exhibit symptoms, they can only be identified with the disorder through a screening blood test that looks for antibodies showing the child’s immune system response to gluten in their diet. If the test results are positive, an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy (EGD) may be performed to confirm celiac disease. During the test, a small tissue sample is taken from the child’s small bowel and tested. If the tissue is inflamed and damage, a diagnosis of celiac disease is verified.
Child Celiac Treatment in Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida
Currently, there is no cure for celiac disease. It is a lifelong condition and requires long-term treatment. While eliminating gluten from your child’s diet may improve symptoms of celiac disease, a comprehensive nutritional plan designed specifically for your child by a registered dietitian is often in order.
At Children’s Medical Center, we offer nutritional services that focus on meeting your child’s nutritional needs, while achieving proper growth and development. Our registered dietician, Elizabeth Britt, MS, RD, LD, CLC, works in our Palm Harbor and Westchase locations, helping to provide nutrition education and counseling and working directly with patients and their families to develop a nutrition plan that meets the medical needs and lifestyle of the family.
To book an appointment with our pediatric nutritionist in Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida, call (727) 787-6335. We look forward to serving you!