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Pediatric Digestive Health

Celiac Disease in Children

Celiac disease is a digestive disorder triggered by eating foods that contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is found in foods such as bread, pasta, cookies and cake.

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Schedule an appointment today with the pediatric experts at UH Rainbow. Call 216-844-7700.

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What is Celiac Disease?

Researchers do not know exactly what triggers celiac disease. Research suggests that celiac disease only happens to people with certain common genes that are carried by about one-third of the population.

Celiac disease may develop any time after wheat or other gluten-containing foods are introduced into the diet, usually after age 6 months to 9 months.

Celiac disease damages the small intestine. The disease is especially concerning in children because it can interferes with absorption of nutrients that are important to normal growth and development. Celiac disease in children can lead to:

  • Damage to the permanent teeth’s enamel
  • Delayed puberty
  • Failure to thrive in infants
  • Slowed growth and short height
  • Weight loss

Some effects of celiac disease, such as short height and tooth defects, will not improve, depending on age at diagnosis.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease in Children

Symptoms of celiac disease in children vary widely. They may last only a few hours, or up to several days or two weeks. Symptoms can be mild or severe.

Symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

  • Abdominal pain or bloating
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Pale, foul-smelling or fatty stools that float
  • Weight loss
  • Delayed growth

Older children and teens may have symptoms or concerning signs that are not obviously related to the intestinal tract. They can include:

  • Stunted growth
  • Weight loss
  • Delayed puberty
  • Achy pain in the bones of joints
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Recurrent headaches or migraines
  • Itchy skin rash
  • Recurring mouth sores

It’s important to test your child at the very first signs of celiac disease, or if the condition runs in your family. Parents, siblings or the children of someone with celiac disease have a one in 10 chance of developing the condition.

Diagnosing and Treating Celiac Disease in Children

Celiac disease can be hard to diagnose because some symptoms are similar to those for other diseases.

If celiac disease is suspected, your child’s pediatrician will first ask for a medical and family history, then conduct a physical exam and possibly order tests. Tests may include blood tests, genetic tests and intestinal or skin biopsy.

Most children respond well to treatment through switching to a gluten-free diet. The pediatric gastroenterology experts at UH Rainbow Babies & Children are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating celiac disease, and can help your child regain their health.

Treatment for Celiac Disease at UH Rainbow

Interested in more information about celiac disease diagnosis and treatment at UH Rainbow? Call 216-844-7700 for more information.