Celiac.com 07/31/2006 - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced the launch of a campaign to heighten awareness of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. The campaign stems from consensus recommendations of an independent panel of experts convened by the NIH to assess current diagnosis, treatment, and management of the disease.

“We now know that celiac disease is more prevalent that previously thought — affecting nearly 1 percent of the U.S. population — and remains under-diagnosed,” said Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., acting director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the NIH institute leading the effort. “Through the campaign, we hope to increase physician awareness of the disease, resulting in earlier diagnosis and better outcomes for celiac patients.”

Developed by the NIDDK, with coordination among the professional and voluntary organizations working on celiac disease, the campaign offers materials and resources for health professionals and the public about the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and management of celiac disease. The campaign offers fact sheets, booklets, practice tools for health professionals, NIH research information, and resources from professional and voluntary organizations that focus on celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune response to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Symptoms of celiac disease range from gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, to delayed growth, certain skin rashes, infertility, and osteoporosis. Treatment for celiac disease is adherence to a gluten-free diet.

“One of the challenges with celiac disease is the vast array of symptoms associated with the disease,” said Stephen P. James, M.D., director of the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition (DDN) at the NIDDK. “We are hoping to educate health professionals and the public that celiac disease is not only a gastrointestinal disease.”

The NIDDK, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), conducts and supports research on diabetes; endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutrition, and obesity; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. Spanning the full spectrum of medicine and afflicting people of all ages and ethnic groups, these diseases encompass some of the most common, severe, and disabling conditions affecting Americans.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nations Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

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