Type 1 Diabetes & Celiac Disease

The Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease Connection

Research shows a link between Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. Some studies suggest that children with Type 1 diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with celiac disease. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), about 3 to 8 percent of people with Type 1 diabetes will have biopsy-confirmed celiac disease. Celiac disease associated with diabetes is usually silent, showing no symptoms, and may only be found upon screening. Like Type 1 diabetes, celiac disease is also an autoimmune disease. At Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, your child will be screened for celiac disease approximately every two years. If your child has an elevated antibody level for celiac disease, he or she will be referred to the Riley Gastroenterology team for further evaluation.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a gastrointestinal disease characterized by an inability to absorb the protein, gluten. This condition results in diarrhea, the passage of stools having a high fat content, and nutritional and vitamin deficiencies. Individuals with celiac disease must avoid ingesting products made from grains containing gluten, including wheat, rye, barley and oats.

Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease

  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor growth
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Irregular blood glucose levels
  • Unexplained hypoglycemia
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Fatigue

Diagnosis of Celiac Disease

Screening for celiac disease can be done by a blood test. Diagnosis can only be made by a procedure called an endoscopy in which a small sample of the tissue in the esophagus is taken.

Treatment of Celiac Disease

Both celiac disease and diabetes require dietary modifications for proper management. A lifelong gluten-free diet is currently the only available treatment for celiac disease. Families and individuals with celiac disease will receive detailed instructions for maintaining this diet. If you suspect that your child has celiac disease, talk to your child’s doctor about further testing. Do not start a gluten-free diet before testing, as this can result in false negative results.

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