Celiac disease – sprue : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Sprue, Nontropical sprue, Gluten intolerance, Gluten-sensitive enteropathy

Definition

Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown. The lining of the intestines contains areas called villi, which help absorb nutrients. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products that contain gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging these villi.

This damage affects the ability to absorb nutrients properly. A person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food he or she eats.

The disease can develop at any point in life, from infancy to late adulthood.

People who have a family member with celiac disease are at greater risk for developing the disease. The disorder is most common in Caucasians and persons of European ancestry. Women are affected more often than men.

People with celiac disease are more likely to have:

  • Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and Sjogren syndrome
  • Addison’s disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Intestinal lymphoma
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Thyroid disease
  • Type 1 diabetes

Pictures & Images

Digestive system

The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

Celiac sprue – foods to avoid

Celiac sprue - foods to avoid

Celiac sprue is an inflammatory condition caused by intolerance to gluten, a substance found in wheat and other grains. The inability to digest and process this substances may lead to inflammation of the intestines, vitamin deficiencies due to lack of absorption of nutrients, and bowel abnormalities. Gluten may be found in many foods, especially processed foods and baked goods. Breads, cakes, desserts that use thickeners, alcoholic beverages (except wine), cereals and pastas may all contain gluten.

Dermatitis, herpetiformis on the knee

Dermatitis, herpetiformis on the knee

This picture shows the knee of a person with a chronic inflammatory disease known as dermatitis herpetiformis. It produces red, raised (papular), small or large blisters (vesicles or bullae) that burn and itch intensely. Dermatitis herpetiformis develops suddenly, lasts for weeks to months, and may be associated with digestive diseases (such as Celiac disease).

Dermatitis, herpetiformis on the arm and legs

Dermatitis, herpetiformis on the arm and legs

This picture shows a chronic inflammatory disease (dermatitis herpetiformis) that produces red (erythematous), raised (papular), small or large blisters (vesicles or bullae) that burn and itch intensely. Dermatitis herpetiformis develops suddenly, lasts for weeks to months, and may be associated with digestive diseases (such as Celiac disease).

Digestive system organs

Digestive system organs

The digestive system organs in the abdominal cavity include the liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.


Review Date : 1/20/2010
Reviewed By : David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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