Celiac Diagnosis Changes Boy’s Life
Whatever the reason, an untold number of people will remain undiagnosed for years. This is because many physicians in North America still consider it a digestive disease and are often unaware of its daunting variety of symptoms.
“You can be irritable and tired, you can have symptoms of schizophrenia or ADHD, or you can experience tingling in your hands and your feet,” Green says. Or, you may lack coordination, have restless legs and seizures. “It can be a neurological or psychological condition.”
A recent Canadian case study illustrates this: the boy involved had celiac disease but his symptoms had been confused with autism.
“Just as vitamin C deficiency can result in scurvy, thiamine insufficiency can cause beriberi and vitamin D inadequacy can lead to rickets – deficiency of certain essential nutrients can result in brain malfunction, potentially manifesting as a developmental disorder,” wrote Edmonton physician Dr. Stephen Genuis.
Given that celiac disease can affect the brain and development, Green notes the importance of screening for it. “You’d think people should be routinely screened more often, especially since the treatment, a gluten-free diet, is so simple,” he says.
But on this continent, “the prevalent thinking is that if symptoms such as stomach bloat are not present, then look elsewhere for a cause.” Green can’t emphasize celiac tests enough.
Many parents of autistic children will experiment with a gluten-free diet, hopeful for improvement. Yet Green says that no matter the effects of the diet, it is important to test for celiac because the disease could be the cause of neurological symptoms.
If there is an official diagnosis of celiac, you’d know that the gluten-free diet requires lifelong adherence, and this would indicate that other family members need testing, as the Murphys discovered.
The first step in screening is a blood test. If that is positive, it’s usually followed by a biopsy of the small intestine to confirm the diagnosis. Screening must take place while patients are still eating gluten because if they stop, the test can result in a false negative.
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