Coeliac disease or celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small bowel that occurs in genetically predisposed individuals in all age groups after early infancy.
Symptoms may include diarrhoea, failure to thrive (in children) and fatigue, but these may be absent and associated symptoms in all other organ systems have been described.
It affects approximately 1% of Caucasian populations, though it is significantly underdiagnosed.
A growing portion of diagnoses are being made in asymptomatic persons as a result of increasing screening.
Coeliac disease is caused by an abnormal reaction to gliadin, a gluten protein found in wheat (and similar proteins of the tribe Triticeae which includes other cultivars such as barley and rye).
Upon exposure to gliadin, the body's immune system cross-reacts with the enzyme tissue transglutaminase, causing an inflammatory reaction that leads to flattening of the lining of the small intestine, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients.
The only effective treatment is a diet, lifelong in principle, from which gluten is absent.