Atypical Celiac Disease

Lab Testing
An antibody test is not always accurate.

Atypical celiac disease is garnering more attention from the medical community as awareness of the disease increases. Active online celiac communities and burgeoning Internet resources that provide information about gluten intolerance are alerting people with complicated symptoms to the possibility of a celiac diagnosis.

Diagnostic Concerns

Celiac disease is difficult to diagnose, even in its most typical form. Overarching symptoms of celiac disease are usually gastrointestinal and may manifest in severe bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea that precedes drastic weight loss. Even such markedly celiac symptoms often lead to a misdiagnosis; inflammatory bowel diseases and the even more common condition of irritable bowel syndrome are more prevalent in doctors' offices.

Doctors will typically diagnose symptoms based on the most likely scenario, so it is no wonder that the majority of celiac cases take close to a decade to diagnose accurately. A patient exhibiting the aforementioned digestive symptoms is more likely, in the eyes of a doctor, to be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome than an uncommon auto-immune-induced intolerance to gluten. Though such medical oversights are frequent, these occurrences address only the typical celiac cases. Atypical celiac disease is even more difficult to diagnose.

About Atypical Celiac Disease

Atypical celiac cases may present themselves in an entirely different manner than the classic predominantly gastrointestinal celiac disease. Not all celiacs walk into a doctor's office with digestive complaints. Instead, they may exhibit symptoms of another auto-immune condition such as Hashimoto's or Addison's disease, type 1 diabetes, or lupus. Some persons with undiagnosed celiac disease will present the tell-tale celiac rash. Unfortunately their symptom of dermatitis herpetiformis may also be diagnosed as psoriasis or an unremarkable rash, and it will be years before a more vigilant doctor recognizes this skin eruption as a reaction to gluten intolerance.

In the past, the medical community used to associate celiac disease with childhood or adolescent disorders. However, more and more cases are surfacing where the disease is presented spontaneously in adults or even elderly persons. Celiac disease can be triggered by environmental stressors at any time in a person's life. This atypical form of gluten intolerance can also be accompanied by an inconveniently long period of diagnosis. It still takes an experienced gastroenterologist to diagnose celiac disease quickly and properly.

The Gliadin IgA Test

A gliadin IgA test may often be conducted early on in patients who are suspects for celiac disease. This blood test identifies antibodies produced when a gluten intolerant person is subjected to the gliadin protein in gluten. However, this test is not always accurate. Persons with atypical celiac disease may test negative and, thus, remain misdiagnosed for a lengthy period of time. Also, some individuals, who have explored a gluten-free lifestyle for a significant period of time prior to the gliadin IgA test, may test negative based on this dietary change. So it is important for individuals who are being examined for gluten intolerance to maintain an ordinary gluten-containing diet for several weeks prior to their blood test.

Diagnosis Atypical Cases

Many individuals will have to push through a lot of medical red tape in order to achieve a proper diagnosis. Though atypical celiac cases will often fall through the holes of diagnostics, in these cases there can be merit to a patient conducting his own online research and communicating with celiacs in online forums. Many doctors fear the idea of patients self-diagnosing over the Internet because mistakes can lead to poor or delayed treatment. However, since the ultimate treatment plan for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet, there is little harm in a self-diagnosis that leads to a gluten elimination diet. This diet can be quite healthy and nutrient rich, so even a self-misdiagnosis may lead to a healthier eating plan.

Still, in the event that a suspected atypical case of celiac disease may actually turn out to be a harsh case of Crohn's disease or colon cancer, it is best to conduct one's online research in conjunction with a medical professional. Inflammatory bowel diseases and cancer of the colon may trigger food sensitivities that can mimic celiac disease symptoms. In such cases a gluten-free diet may pacify certain symptoms, but the overall misdiagnosis will prove extremely detrimental to the patient.

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Atypical Celiac Disease