Celiac Disease Statistics in U.S.: How Common is This Autoimmune Disorder?

Heard of celiac disease? You should have, because it’s actually fairly common in the States, says Mayoclinic.com. Also according to Mayoclinic.com, you may even have celiac disease and not know it, because its symptoms can be all over the place, can be subtle or even non-existent, and of course, the symptoms of celiac disease do a fine job of mimicking symptoms of more well-known medical conditions, like fibromyalgia and attention deficit disorder.

Unfortunately, celiac disease often goes misdiagnosed for years before it’s finally diagnosed, and doctors still do not routinely test for this condition when a patient presents with a variety of symptoms that seem to be unrelated, or even seemingly related symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

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A study looking into how common celiac disease is in the U.S. is reported in the Feb. 10, 2003 Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers from the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research screened over 13,000 people across 32 states.

According to the study’s principal investigator, Alessio Fasano, MD, more than 1.5 million Americans have celiac disease. Many people think that CD is yet another one of those digestive disorders characterized by diarrhea, cramping and constipation; no big deal, right?

However, untreated celiac disease can lead to major problems, including infertility and brittle bones. Untreated CD will lead to malabsorption of vital nutrients; the person is essentially starved of health-giving nutrients, and an assortment of serious ailments can occur, not to mention depression, impaired concentration and fatigue.

Interestingly, a person can have this condition and not have symptoms. A prior study by Dr. Fasano initially found that one out of 150 people have celiac disease.

The new study with the 13,000-plus people spanned more than five years and looked at both at-risk and not-at-risk subjects. In the at-risk group, the condition occurred in one out of 22 participants who had first-degree relatives with CD. It was found in one out of every 68 adults with symptoms associated with CD, and one out of every 25 kids with symptoms.

In the not-at-risk group, CD was discovered in one out of every 133 subjects. The only known effective treatment for CD is lifelong avoidance of gluten. To develop celiac disease, a person must have the gene associated with it, in combination with consuming gluten-containing foods. However, not everyone with this gene, who eats gluten, will go on to develop CD. If it’s discovered that you have this gene, but you have no signs of celiac disease, should you give up gluten? You can read more about that here.


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