Friday, September 01, 2006

NIH Celiac Disease Awareness campaign.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), in July of 2006, launched a Celiac Disease Awareness campaign in hopes to increase awareness of the disease among physicians and the medical community. The idea is to have doctors diagnose the disease earlier, and as a result, produce improved outcomes for celiac patients.

This is great news, since the medical community was (generally) educated to believe that gluten-sensitivity / Celiac disease is rare, when in fact it is on the rise and has become the most common inherited auto-immune disorder. Something as simple as an allergy to proteins found in wheat, barley, kamut, rye, and spelt just doesn't sound that bad perhaps (even Oats - since likely contaminated by other grains), but it can lead to all sorts of issues. In kids, it can cause delayed growth. In general it can lead to osteoporosis, additional risk of lymphomas, rashes, iron deficiency anemia, and neurological issues (from malabsorbtion of various minerals and vitamins). And, the gastrointestinal destruction and suffering just adds to the mess.

Hopefully this push by the NIH will update physician knowledge and move them from old-school diagnosis techniques to up-to-date and more reliable diagnosis (old methods were as vague as looking for patients that look starved/malnutritioned and/or with gastrointestinal distress). Now it is rather widely accepted that Celiac Disease can produce all sorts of vague symptoms and come on at any age for the patient. And, the whole weight-criteria is out of the window, as many with the disease could even be overweight.

So, it will be interesting to see how soon the average physician is educated on this subject. From my personal experience, I went through many a doctor before one even took me seriously when I told them I thought I had the problem. I have not seen those doctors since, but I really wonder, for the sake of others with the disease, whether those same doctors now have a clue. Perhaps this NIH campaign will help. Let's hope.

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