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Signs of Damage Relating to Celiac Disease

written by: Rochelle Connery • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 5/31/2011

What are the risks of celiac disease damage? Perhaps you weren’t even aware that having this condition could leave you susceptible to other bodily harm. Learn why you should take proactive measures if you have celiac disease to prevent further complications.

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    A Brief Background in Celiac Disease

    Celiac disease is essentially a condition that causes the body to adversely react to certain foods, especially those containing gluten. When someone with this condition eats foods to which their body is allergic, parts of the intestines get destroyed and their digestion is severely disrupted.

    This disease is most notable for damaging the intestines, specifically the villi, or little fingers, that are found within the intestines.

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    Complications

    What conditions may be a result of celiac disease damage? There are a long list of conditions, but some of them stand out as being life-threatening.

    Perhaps the most threatening of these complications is cancer. Note that this is more of a possibility in untreated celiac disease than in someone who is actively working to limit their symptoms with a gluten-free diet. You’re prone to small intestine cancer because this is the part of the body directly affected by the disease.

    Bone-related diseases are another by-product of this disease. Adults might experience osteoporosis or bone loss as a result of not treating their condition. Even if you do not experience an all-out loss of bone, you might realize your bones do not feel as comfortable as they used to. You might have pain when moving joints or notice that they’re becoming brittle.

    Iron-deficiency anemia is another result of celiac disease damage that affects many people. Why is this? Well, as it turns out, much of the iron your body absorbs is absorbed through the villi in your small intestines. Since this disease damages this part of your body, it simultaneously disables the body’s ability to absorb this important element. Thus, iron deficiency results, which leads to thinning blood, blood loss, blood polyps and heavy periods (in women, obviously).

    You can get chronic inflammation anemia as well, not just the iron-deficiency variety. Your doctor can test for anemia using a complete blood count test, which will gauge how many red blood cells versus white blood cells are present in your body.

    Celiac disease can also affect the way your whole body moves. This condition is called peripheral neuropathy, a disease that significantly reduces your quality of life. Symptoms of this condition typically result in a loss of coordination and difficulty maintaining an even gait.

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    How to Treat Celiac Disease

    There are many tests a doctor might administer to determine if you have celiac disease or a complication thereof. But no matter what your symptoms, the best way to control it is to avoid gluten products. This means just about anything made with wheat, barley and rye. You’ll also notice that some of your favorite sugary products have gluten in them as well, so depending on your current diet, you might end up removing several of your favorite foods from your eating habits to save your life.