What Is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Sprue was once thought to be a rare pediatric disease. We now know from blood donor studies that it is a common disease affecting as many as 1 in 133 people in the U.S from a variety of ethnic groups. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in the U.S. with this disease are undiagnosed. 

Also known as Celiac Disease, gluten-sensitive enteropathy, or non-tropical sprue, Celiac Sprue is a life-long intestinal disease that is caused by the ingestion of gluten, a protein component of wheat, rye, and barley. In genetically-susceptible people, gluten triggers a series of immune-mediated events that leads to inflammation and damage to the lining of the small intestine, preventing absorption of critical nutrients. 

Many Celiac patients do not receive any follow-up care, either because they are unable to find a physician who is knowledgeable about the disease or because they feel that they are doing well on their own. Studies have shown, however, that a substantial proportion of Celiacs are not in remission, even patients who are asymptomatic. Therefore, we strongly advocate that Celiacs receive regular follow-up care to monitor their disease activity and prevent complications. This is also recommended by the National Institute of Health Celiac Sprue Consensus Conference panel which met in June 2004.