Making a diagnosis can be difficult because some of its symptoms are similar to those of other diseases. If a doctor believes a person has celiac disease based on their symptoms and findings on a physical exam, he or she will usually test the person's blood to measure the levels of certain antibodies, including:
- IgA anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTGA)
- IgA anti-endomysium antibodies (AEA)
- IgA and IgG anti-gliadin antibodies (AGA).
Before being tested, one should continue to eat a regular diet that includes foods with gluten, such as breads and pastas. If a person stops eating foods with gluten before being tested, the results may be negative for celiac disease, even if the disease is actually present.
If the tests and symptoms suggest celiac disease, the doctor will perform a small bowel biopsy.
(See Celiac Disease Diagnosis to learn more about how the disease is diagnosed.)
The only form of treatment for this condition involves following a gluten-free diet. A dietitian (a healthcare professional who specializes in food and nutrition) can create a gluten-free diet plan. Also, a dietitian can teach someone with celiac disease how to read ingredient lists and identify foods that contain gluten in order to make informed decisions at the grocery store and when eating out.
For most people, following this diet will stop symptoms, heal existing intestinal damage, and prevent further damage. In order to stay well, people with celiac disease must avoid gluten for the rest of their lives. Eating any gluten, no matter how small an amount, can damage the small intestine.
Some people with celiac disease show no improvement on the gluten-free diet. This condition is called unresponsive celiac disease.
(Click Celiac Disease Treatment, Gluten-Free Diet, or Diet for Celiac Disease for more information.)