Celiac disease is a hereditary genetic condition. People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease have a higher risk of developing it. It only affects people with specific genetic features, but not everyone with these features will develop it.
Gluten is the protein in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. There is a vast array of foods containing gluten, including:
- baked goods
- processed foods
Although experts estimate that celiac disease affects 1 in 100 people worldwide, only about 30% have a diagnosis from a doctor.
This article discusses hereditary celiac disease and explains how it occurs. It also explores other causes of celiac disease and if it is possible to prevent it. Finally, we also explain potential complications and how doctors treat the condition.
People with a first-degree relative, such as a parent, child, or sibling, have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease. The disease can occur at any age after someone starts consuming gluten.
The Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center explains that while celiac disease runs in families, it does not follow a specific inheritance pattern.
Specific genes and chromosomal disorders
There is an increased risk of celiac disease if someone has certain forms of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 genes.
Although about 30% of people have DQ2 or DQ8, only 3% will develop celiac disease. Researchers from the NIDDK are studying which other genes may trigger the condition in people with DQ2 or DQ8.
Celiac disease is also more common in people with certain chromosomal disorders, such as:
While genes are the main cause of someone developing celiac disease, the NIDDK notes that scientists are studying other factors which may raise a person’s chance of developing the disease.
Doctors treat celiac disease by recommending a gluten-free diet.
People following a gluten-free diet must check food labels and avoid the
- wheat, durum, emmer, semolina, and spelt
- barley and barley products, including:
- malt extract
- malt vinegar
- brewer’s yeast
- triticale which is a cross between wheat and rye
- baked goods which contain gluten, such as:
- cereals and pasta containing gluten
- some sauces, syrups, dressings, condiments, and gravies
- food additives and ingredients that contain gluten, such as:
- some beers and flavored liquors
- some processed foods, such as:
- ice cream
- hot dogs
People must also avoid foods and drinks that may have come into contact with gluten during production. Most food labels will point out a risk.
Gluten may also be present in cosmetics, vitamins, and medications, so a person must check any labels.
Celiac disease can lead to further complications and other conditions if a person does not obtain a diagnosis or treatment from a doctor.
The Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) advises that diagnosing the condition early lowers the chance of developing another autoimmune condition.
For example, if a doctor diagnoses celiac disease in someone between ages 2–4, they have a 10.5% chance of developing another autoimmune condition. However, this increases to 34% if a celiac diagnosis is established after age 20.
In this case, a doctor may administer intravenous nutrients and provide specialized treatment.
Possible health conditions
Long-term health conditions that may result from celiac disease include:
- vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- iron deficiency anemia
- lactose intolerance
- early onset osteoporosis or osteopenia
- gall bladder malfunction
- heart disease
- infertility and miscarriage
- liver failure
- neurological symptoms such as:
- pancreatic insufficiency
- small intestine cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Possible autoimmune disorders
Additionally, the CDF explains that not treating celiac disease may lead to other autoimmune disorders. They note that studies suggest that the later the age of diagnosis, the greater the chance of developing another autoimmune disorder.
The foundation lists autoimmune disorders and other conditions associated with celiac disease and their percentage prevalence in celiac disease populations:
- autoimmune hepatitis: 2%
- chronic fatigue syndrome: 2%
- Sjögren’s syndrome: 3%
- primary biliary cirrhosis: 3%
- microscopic colitis: 4%
- idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy: 5.7 %
- juvenile idiopathic arthritis: 1.5–6.6%
- type 1 diabetes: 8–10%
- liver disease: 10%
- gluten ataxia: 10–12%
- peripheral neuropathy: 10–12%
- unexplained infertility: 12%
- Down syndrome: 12%
- anemia: 12–69%
- lymphocytic colitis: 15–27%
- autoimmune thyroid disease: 26%
People cannot change the fact that they may be genetically susceptible to celiac disease. However, other environmental factors play a key role in developing the disease, which may be modifiable.
For example, a
Additionally, the review notes that further research into manipulating gut bacteria, vaccinating against infections, and altering the immune response may be future strategies to help prevent celiac disease from developing.
Celiac disease can only develop in people who have inherited certain genes. However, only some people who carry the gene variants develop celiac disease.
Scientists are studying additional genes that may trigger the disease and the environmental factors contributing to its development.
People with celiac disease must follow a strict gluten-free diet to prevent symptoms and further damage to their gut. If a doctor does not promptly diagnose or treat celiac disease, it may lead to other health conditions and complications.