Celiac Disease Center offers free blood screening

Celiac Disease Center offers free blood screening

Expert panel answers questions

October 1, 2010

On Saturday, October 9, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center will provide free screening for 500 at-risk people. This year's event will include exhibits for all ages at the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine (DCAM – see below), including a panel of specialists who will answer questions from attendees about celiac disease, its only treatment (a gluten free diet), and other related conditions. Adult and pediatric specialists will be available for questions beginning at 10:30 am.

At least 3 million Americans have celiac disease, yet 97 percent of those with the disease have not been diagnosed. Through a simple blood test, people can tell if they should pursue diagnostic testing for celiac 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 other serious conditions like thyroid disease, osteoporosis and cancer.

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 body attacks the small intestine, causing inflammation and malabsorption.

There are hundreds of symptoms including chronic fatigue, anemia, diarrhea, constipation and/or abdominal pain. However, many people with celiac disease experience no symptoms even though the disease is active and causing damage.

"We have provided free screening for thousands of people at-risk over the years," said Stefano Guandalini, MD, section chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at Comer Children's Hospital and founder and medical director of the Celiac Disease Center. "Celiac disease is unfortunately ten times more prevalent than type one diabetes," continued Guandalini, "Our mission is to make sure celiac disease is as well known so that doctors across the country can go about the task of diagnosing and treating the millions of people with the disease. We can make a real difference in the quality of life and reducing complications and mortality rates if we catch celiac disease early."

Researchers at the University of Chicago have developed the world's first mouse-model of celiac disease, the first step in finding a vaccine, therapeutic intervention and eventually a cure for celiac disease. Presently, the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet. If left untreated, the disease can lead to osteoporosis, infertility, and even cancer.

The first step to diagnosis is a simple blood test called the tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibody test. Begun in 2001, annual celiac disease screenings at the University of Chicago have helped to diagnose thousands of people from across the country.

To ensure accuracy of the test, 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 screening, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center has planned an interactive panel discussion to educate the public and medical professionals about this little-known yet prevalent autoimmune disease.

Events on Saturday, October 9, 2010

8:30 am - 12:00 pm
Free Blood Screening (pre-registration required)
4th Floor, DCAM

8:30 am - 12:00 pm
Exhibits Open
4th Floor, DCAM

10:30 am - 11:30 am
Interactive Panel Discussion and Q&A
4th Floor, DCAM
Panel includes international experts, as well as specially trained dieticians

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 October 1 or as soon as the 500 slots are filled. To qualify for the screening or for more information, call the Celiac Disease Center at 773-702-7593 or visit www.CeliacDisease.net