Many of us have stories or have heard stories of someone we know who suffered with undiagnosed celiac for years before finally getting some relief with a positive diagnosis. We have two tales in my family: Emma was diagnosed at 15 months. We believe she likely started suffering around her first birthday. Three months is pretty quick! My brother was just diagnosed at the age of 40. It is believed he suffered for years with undiagnosed celiac, and it has taken a toll on his body.
Now an article in the November 2008 edition of the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition suggests doctors act fast and catch celiac disease early; especially in children when development is so vital. New research shows the earlier the diagnosis the better their quality of life for years to come.
In a study of 365 adolescents, ages 10-20 (283 with celiac disease, 82 without), those who did not comply with the gluten-free diet, reported a lower quality of life, more physical problems, more family problems than those who strictly adhered to the diet. Children with a later diagnosis of celiac disease had more problems at school, as well as more social and physical health problems. The study also compared the quality of life between celiac patients who comply with the diet and people in the study who didn’t have celiac disease. They found there was no difference between the two groups.
The bottom line: This study specifically addresses physicians and “…the importance of [making] the earliest CD diagnosis possible”. Because, according to the study, the later the diagnosis, the higher the possibility of not following the gluten-free diet and leading to aforementioned problems, like family and other social troubles.
What does this say for us? I think it says as parents, colleagues, friends and family members, we must spread the word and advocate for all people. I find myself asking questions all the time when people talk about how their health has gone bad, or they have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or their child has constant diarrhea. Often, I will suggest the idea of celiac disease and how it can surface with many different symptoms. I will plant the seed in the person’s brain, so maybe they will ask their doctor to be tested.
We may not all be the physicians at which this study is directed, but I think we can do our part to educate the masses. For some people, that may mean having the knowledge they needed to get a celiac diagnosis and start to live a better quality of life.