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Causes of Celiac Disease

Autoimmunity as a Cause of Celiac Disease

Over the last fifty years, a lot of research has been conducted to better understand the cause or causes of this disease. What scientists know at this point is that the cause of celiac disease is at least in part genetic, meaning it runs in families. Two specific genes (known as HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8) are present in people with celiac disease and do appear to increase a person's risk for developing the condition.
HLA-DQ2 is found in up to 95 percent of people with celiac disease, while most of the remaining patients have HLA-DQ8. However, up to 30 percent of people without celiac disease also have one of these genes, meaning that there must be other genes involved.
It is thought that because of these genes, ingestion of gluten causes immune cells to attack the lining of the small intestine in people with celiac disease. Most affected individuals experience remission after excluding gluten from their diet.
Finally, there appear to be some triggers that play a role in causing this disease. For example, sometimes the disease is triggered -- or becomes active for the first time -- after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress.

Final Thoughts

Although scientists continue to look for the exact cause or causes of celiac disease, there has been great progress made over the last fifty years. While researchers continue their work to better our understanding of the disorder, they do know that the disease is most likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

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