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Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.View all articles by Jefferson Adams
Celiac.com 06/26/2007 - Celiac disease is one of the most common chronic health disorders in western countries. It is also one of the most under-diagnosed. Up until ten years ago, medical schools taught that celiac disease was relatively rare and only affected about 1 in 2,500 people. It was also thought to be a disease that primarily affected children and young people. Recent studies and advances in diagnosis show that at least 3 million Americans, or about 1 in 133 people have celiac disease, but only 1-in-4,700 is ever diagnosed.
The National Institutes of Health shows the prevalence of celiac disease to other well-known conditions as follows:
Celiac Disease affects 3 million Americans
Epilepsy affects 2.8 million Americans
Crohns Disease affects 500,000 Americans
Ulcerative Colitis affects 500,000 Americans
Multiple Sclerosis affects 333,000 Americans
Cystic Fibrosis affects 30,000 Americans
People with untreated celiac disease suffer intestinal damage when they eat products containing wheat, rye, or barley. The disease mostly affects people of European (especially Northern European) descent, but recent studies show that it also affects portions of the Hispanic, Black and Asian populations as well. Celiac disease presents a broad range of symptoms, from mild weakness and bone pain, to chronic diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and progressive weight loss. In most cases, treatment with a gluten-free diet leads to a full recovery from celiac disease. It is therefore imperative that the disease is quickly and properly diagnosed so it can be treated as soon as possible.
If people with celiac disease continue to eat gluten, studies show that their risk of gastrointestinal cancer is 40 to 100 times that of the normal population. In addition to increased cancer risk, untreated celiac disease is associated with osteoporosis, and a two-fold increase in the risk of fractures, including first-time hip fractures. Moreover, an unusually high percentage of people with celiac disease suffer from the following related conditions (% in parenthesis):
- Anemia (3-6%)
- Arthritis (20%)
- Ataxia (40%)
- Cancer—Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (39%)
- Cows Milk Intolerance (24%)
- Dermatitis (5%)
- Diabetes-Type 1 (12%)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (20%)
- Liver Disease (42%)
- Migraine Headaches (4%)
- Nerve Disease and/or Peripheral Neuropathy (51%)
- Obesity (30-40%)
- Osteoporosis (4.5%)
- Osteomalacia/Low Bone Density (70%)
- Pancreatic & Thyroid Disorders (5-14%)
In fact, untreated celiac disease can actually cause or worsen some of these conditions, and medical guidelines now recommend celiac screening for all people with these conditions.
The vast majority of people visit doctors who have been in practice for more than ten years, and for whom celiac disease is a rare condition and often not considered when handling complaints. Seniors are also more likely than the general population to suffer from conditions associated with celiac disease (Arthritis, Diabetes, Liver Disease, Osteoporosis, etc). Without awareness and screening, they are at greater risk for developing disorders resulting from celiac disease--many of which are avoidable with diagnosis and treatment. Awareness of celiac disease and related issues offers seniors and easy way to improve their health and wellbeing.
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