What is celiac disease (sprue)?

Updated: Nov 29, 2019
  • Author: Stephan U Goebel, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Celiac disease, also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is a chronic disease of the digestive tract that interferes with the digestion and absorption of food nutrients. People with celiac disease cannot tolerate gliadin, the alcohol-soluble fraction of gluten. Gluten is a protein commonly found in wheat, rye, and barley. Most patients with celiac disease tolerate oats, but they should be monitored closely. When people with celiac disease ingest gliadin, the mucosa of their intestines is damaged by an immunologically mediated inflammatory response, resulting in maldigestion and malabsorption. Patients with celiac disease can present with failure to thrive and diarrhea (the classical form). However, some patients have only subtle symptoms (atypical celiac disease) or are asymptomatic (silent celiac disease). [3]

For patient education resources, see Digestive Disorders Center and Oral Health Center, as well as Celiac DiseaseAnatomy of the Digestive System, and Canker Sores.

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