By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com
Though more commonly thought of as a disease that manifests in youth and young-adulthood, celiac disease is being diagnosed in the elderly with increasing frequency.
Celiac disease is the name given to a specific type of autoimmune response that occurs when a person ingests gluten, a protein found in foods such as pasta and bread.
Recent research, conducted by scientists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine Center for Celiac Research, has discovered that celiac disease is about two and a half times more common among elderly people than it is in the population as a whole.
One of the lead researchers of this study, Dr. Alessio Fasano, M.D., Director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, discusses celiac disease in an interview for the University of Maryland.
According to Dr. Fasano, people with a genetic predisposition for celiac disease may develop it at any time, even if they have been eating gluten for years without any problems. He says this of the disease, “You cannot grow out of it, but you may grow into it.”
If a person with celiac disease eats food containing gluten, their immune system will go on the defensive, injuring and sometimes destroying the hair-like villi that line the inside of the small intestine. Without villi, an elderly person will not be able to soak up essential vitamins and minerals from their food. A variety of different health problems can arise from the malnutrition caused by untreated celiac disease. When left untreated, celiac disease can pose serious health risks for the elderly that include osteoporosis (reduced bone density caused by thinning bones) and neuropathy (nerve damage).
The common symptoms associated with celiac disease are diarrhea and abdominal pain and cramping.
Other symptoms can include:
Celiac Disease in the Elderly originally appeared on AgingCare.com.