Symptoms & Diagnosis of Celiac Disease

Does My Child have Celiac Disease?

A child can begin to show symptoms of celiac disease any time after they begin to eat foods with gluten. Symptoms vary from child to child, with some children showing no symptoms at all.

By the time a child does develop symptoms, some damage to the small intestine has already occurred. Therefore, if you think your child may have celiac disease, contact your pediatrician immediately.

Celiac disease symptoms may include:

  • Chronic diarrhea or (more rarely) constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating and gas
  • Irritability
  • Decreased appetite and/or poor weight gain
  • Growth and pubertal delay
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Fractures or thin bones
  • Decreased muscle mass in the limbs
  • Damage to tooth enamel or failure of enamel formation
  • A chronic itchy rash called dermatitis herpetiformis

If your child is experience these symptoms discuss them with your family doctor or find a pediatric gastroenterologist near you.

Diagnosing Celiac Disease

If your pediatrician suspects that your child has celiac disease, there are a few tests he or she can do to confirm. Most likely they will start by having the child’s blood tested. Two tests–the anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody (tTG) and the anti-endomysial antibody (EMA) tests are highly accurate and reliable in determining the likelihood of celiac disease.

However, to confirm a celiac disease diagnosis, the pediatrician must obtain a tissue sample from the child’s small intestine and inspect for certain changes to the villi. The pediatrician will use a procedure called an endoscopy with biopsy to collect the tissue sample. During this procedure, a flexible tube-like instrument is placed through the mouth, down the throat, past the stomach and into the small intestine to obtain small tissue samples.

If your child is diagnosed with celiac disease, he or she will need to be put on a gluten-free diet to avoid any further damage to the small intestine.

Educational support for the NASPGHAN Foundation’s Celiac Disease Education Campaign was provided by supporters University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research and Prometheus Therapeutics and Diagnostics.

North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
The Association of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition Nurses
North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Foundation
The NASPGHAN Council For Pediatric Nutrition Professionals
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