Risk of Leaving Celiac Disease Untreated
Celiac Disease (CD) is an illness that goes largely undetected or misdiagnosed due to its multiple symptoms. If one is fortunate enough to be diagnosed, keep in mind the battle is not over. Then begins a life long journey of managing a gluten free lifestyle everyday. Triggered by gluten- a kind of protein found in grains such as barley, wheat, rye, etc. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine. Inflammation in the intestine affects nutrient absorption. Naturally, this leads to various health issues.
The biggest risk with the disease is that the symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, etc., can also be treated for just what they are. Failure to recognize a pattern to their occurrence can leave the disease undiagnosed. The only way to know for sure that you have Celiac is by testing for it. Genetic testing, serological testing or endoscopy can go a long way in ascertaining if one is suffering from the disease.
However, if left misdiagnosed or untreated, Celiac Disease causes several complications in ones health and well-being. Not only does the continued ingestion of gluten-rich foods compound the gastrointestinal discomfort, but it also leads to other serious concerns.
1. Cancers in the Digestive System
People identified with CD are at a higher risk of contracting Lymphoma or bowel cancer. Cancer of the esophagus has also been observed in people suffering from CD for a long time. The root of the issue seems to be the prolonged inflammation of the intestine. Adenocarcinoma of the intestine is another such illness noted in people diagnosed with CD.
2. Malabsorption and Brittle Bones
The damage to the mucosa of the small intestine impacts nutrient absorption in the body. Obviously, this inability of the body to meet its nutritional requirements over a long period of time leads to issues of bone weakness and malabsorption. Not being able to absorb Vitamin D, calcium, etc. causes bone density problems. Low absorption of calcium also causes dental problems and osteoporosis. Iron deficiency too, is, observed often in people with CD.
When the nutrients needed to produce neurotransmitters do not get absorbed in the body, nerves in the brain are not as stimulated as they should be. Studies show that the failure of the body to absorb vitamin B6 and tryptophan, among CD diagnosed patients, can cause depression, irritability, lack of energy, fuzziness of the brain and poor concentration.
4. Lactose Intolerance
The inflammation of the intestine impairs the break down of lactose in dairy products. This leads to issues like gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc. it is not uncommon for celiacs to be lactose intolerant as well.
5. Nervous System Disorders
Untreated CD can also cause problems with the central or peripheral nervous system. It might also be difficult for them to control their movements.
Among women, prolonged CD can cause issues with fertility. Many women miscarry frequently and there appears to be a relation between undiagnosed or untreated CD and infertility.
Because Celiac Disease is difficult to diagnose, it often goes untreated leading to various complications that one is forced to live with. If you are lucky to be diagnosed correctly adherence to a gluten-free lifestyle is a must. Till a new medical breakthrough comes along, it is better to comply with a gluten free routine rather than face the repercussions of untreated Celiac Disease.