Celiac Disease Center offers free screening, educational opportunity

Celiac Disease Center offers free screening, educational opportunity

August 15, 2007

On Saturday, Oct. 6, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center will provide free screening for the first 500 at-risk candidates to enroll. This year's event will include exhibits for all ages and a presentation by specialists at the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine (DCAM).

An estimated two to three million Americans have celiac disease, yet fewer than 50,000 have been diagnosed. Through a simple blood test, people can tell if they should pursue diagnostic tests for the disease.

Researchers believe that one in three Americans have the genes that can lead to celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes small bowel damage, resulting in poor nutrient absorption and a host of potential complications.

Celiac disease is an inherited digestive disorder triggered by gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. When a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, the immune system attacks the small intestine, causing inflammation. The reaction then decreases nutrient, fluid and electrolyte absorption.

Common symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss. However, a large number of adults with celiac disease experience minimal or no symptoms even though the disease damages their small intestines.

"Knowledge is key," said Dr. Stefano Guandalini, section chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at Comer Children's Hospital and medical director of the Celiac Disease Center. "We have the medical know-how to determine if a genetic predisposition to celiac disease exists, and we have tools to diagnose the disease early, yet millions of people suffer because they are unaware of this condition."

Celiac disease can be controlled with diet modifications. If left untreated the disease can lead to osteoporosis, infertility, anemia, psychiatric disorders, type-1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer.

The first step to diagnosis is a simple blood test called the tissue transglutaminase (tTG) test. Five hundred slots at the Celiac Disease Center screening will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for people who are at risk. Risk factors include:

  • A close relative who has celiac disease
  • The presence of other autoimmune diseases
  • Down Syndrome
  • Short stature
  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Constipation

Begun in 2001, annual celiac disease screenings at the University of Chicago have helped thousands of individuals from across the United States.

Participants must be at least two years of age and remain on a gluten-containing diet. People who receive a positive test result will receive a phone call from a physician within four weeks and medical counseling while they go through the testing process.

Along with the screening, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center (formerly known as the Celiac Disease Program) has planned an interactive panel discussion to educate the public and medical professionals about this little-known yet prevalent autoimmune disease.

Events on Oct. 6, 2007

8:30-12:30 Free Blood Screening (pre-registration required)

9:00-1:00 Exhibits

11:00 Grand Opening Ceremony for The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center

11:15-12:30 Interactive Panel Discussion and Q&A
(Panel includes international experts, as well as specially trained dieticians)

All events will take place on the 4th floor of the DCAM. Activities for children also will take place throughout the morning. Events are free and open to the public. The Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine is located at 5758 S. Maryland Ave.

Screening registration closes Oct. 1 or as soon as all 500 slots are filled. To qualify for the screening or for more information, call the Celiac Disease Center at (773) 702-7593.