While just 1% of the world’s population has a confirmed case of celiac disease, many more have yet to be diagnosed. Let’s help them by creating awareness with these 5 celiac disease facts.

5 celiac disease facts to create awareness
5 celiac disease facts to create awareness
Graphic by Haydee Vanegas.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition. In patients with celiac disease, the immune system mistakes gluten for a foreign invader and mounts an attack against the body.

Celiac disease primarily affects the small intestine, damaging its villi. This part of the organ is responsible for nutrient absorption and this damage explains why so many people with celiac disease have vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Celiac disease is one of the least understood medical conditions. One of the best ways to improve the lives of the millions of people suffering with celiac disease is to create awareness of the condition. Here are 5 celiac disease facts you may not be aware of:

1 Out of Every 100 People Suffers From Celiac Disease

1 Out of Every 100 People Suffers From Celiac Disease
1 Out of Every 100 People Suffers From Celiac Disease
Graphic by Haydee Vanegas.

1 in 100 people worldwide have celiac disease. Many of them don’t know it. In fact, it is estimated that only 17% of Americans with celiac disease have been diagnosed. Of the remaining 83% many are misdiagnosed with other conditions.

Celiac Disease Has a Complicated Diagnosis

Diagnosis of celiac disease is complicated
Diagnosis of celiac disease is complicated
Graphic by Haydee Vanegas.

Celiac disease has a complicated diagnosis because many of its symptoms overlap with other conditions. Those symptoms may vary from one person to another. Even when the major symptom is the damage in the villi. Some patients with celiac disease are asymptomatic, making its diagnosis even more complicated.

There are over 300 known symptoms of celiac disease. Many of those symptoms can also be attributed to other health issues, especially gastrointestinal diseases. As a result, most patients wait for six to 10 years for a diagnosis.

Celiac Disease Has a Genetic Component

Celiac disease has a genetic component.
Celiac disease has a genetic component.
Graphic by Haydee Vanegas.

Individuals who have a first-degree relative with celiac disease have a genetic predisposition to the condition. It’s estimated that 22% of people with celiac disease fall into that category. The gene variants involved have been identified as HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1.

The Only Treatment for Celiac Disease is a Gluten-Free Diet

The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet.
The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet.
Graphic by Haydee Vanegas.

Gluten is a protein mostly present in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten triggers an overreaction by the immune system in those with celiac disease. The only treatment for these individuals is lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet.

Commercially sold foods labeled “gluten-free” cannot contain more than 20 parts per million. Eating at restaurants can be risky due to the possibility of cross-contamination. However, the restaurant industry has improved in this area over the past few years.

Celiac Disease Can Develop Other Associated Diseases

Celiac disease is associated with other health issues.
Celiac disease is associated with other health issues.
Graphic by Haydee Vanegas.

People with celiac disease are often deficient in many important nutrients. These include magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, niacin, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. These deficiencies can suppress the immune system and increase the risk of other diseases. People with celiac disease also have a greater risk of developing another autoimmune disease.

Without a timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment, celiac disease can lead to intestinal cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis, and anemia.

Please share these 5 celiac disease facts and generate awareness for the millions of people suffering from this debilitating condition.