Celiac Disease in Young Children
Celiac Disease can strike the very young, and when it does the results can be devastating. Because children do not have large reserves of fat, the chronic diarrhea and malnutrition that is the hallmark of celiac disease can make them seriously ill much more quickly than an adult. In addition to that Celiac disease in a toddler or infant can slow their growth in what is called a failure to thrive.
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease; when gluten enters an individual’s small intestine a person with celiac disease cannot properly digest the protein called gluten because of an immunological reaction to the toxic prolamins in these proteins. The end result of this immunological reaction is that the villi of the mucosa lining of the small intestine are destroyed, and their body is unable to absorb nutrients.
Because celiac disease is genetic, if one of your children has celiac disease there is up to a 40 percent chance that your other children will have it as well, so be sure to have all of your children tested.
Celiac disease can be a serious and even life threatening issue in small children, so it is vital that it is diagnosed and treated quickly in young children. Children have many of the same symptoms as adults do, but in addition to those it is very common in children to see irritability, vomiting, failure to thrive, muscle deterioration, and bloated belly. If Celiac disease is not caught, children may be small in stature, develop osteoporosis, and be at risk for certain types of cancer, or other problems as an adult.
If you suspect your child may have celiac disease, your doctor can order a simple blood test that will determine if your child has an IgA deficiency. If further testing is needed a biopsy of the small intestine can be performed to determine the amount of damage to the mucosa lining.
There is no cure for celiac disease, and the only treatment currently is a gluten free diet. With careful attention to diet though, your child will thrive again, and grow up to be a healthy and happy adult.