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Format: 04/16/2014
Format: 04/16/2014


AGH Program To Raise Awareness About Celiac Disease

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Many Americans suffer from celiac disease for years before a diagnosis is made. On Saturday, August 29, 2009, Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) is holding a free public program on celiac disease to help raise awareness about the condition and how it can be managed effectively. The program will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 am at the AGH McCandless Building on McKnight Road. Those who wish to register for the program may call AGH’s Physician Access at 1-877-284-2000.

According to Paul Lebovitz, MD, Director, West Penn Allegheny Health System Division of Gastroenterology, and director of the Center for Digestive Health at AGH, more than 2 million people—or about 1 in every 133 people in the U.S.—have celiac disease. “It is believed that 97 percent of persons who have this disease are undiagnosed,” he said. “On the average, it takes 11 years for a diagnosis to be made.”

Celiac Disease (CD) is a lifelong, digestive disorder that affects children and adults. When people with CD eat foods that contain gluten, it creates an immune-mediated toxic reaction that causes damage to the small intestine and does not allow food to be properly absorbed. Even small amounts of gluten in foods can affect those with CD and cause health problems. Damage can occur to the small bowel even when there are no symptoms present.

Gluten is the common name for the proteins in specific grains that are harmful to persons with celiac disease. These proteins are found in all forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn and faro) and related grains rye, barley and triticale and must be eliminated.

Symptoms of celiac disease may or may not be visibly seen, and some people with celiac have no symptoms at all. To further complicate diagnosis, many of the symptoms resemble other medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and anemias. If symptoms are present, they may include unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms such as recurring abdominal pain, bloating, chronic constipation or diarrhea. Other symptoms may include anemia, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and infertility.

“People who suspect they may have celiac disease should be screened by a gastrointestinal physician,” said Dr. Lebovitz. “Left untreated, celiac disease could cause major nutritional deficiencies, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and even cancer.”

Sponsored by AGH, Celiac Awareness Day will afford program participants an opportunity to:

• Meet AGH’s team of experts during a question and answer session (9 a.m. to 10 a.m.)
• Complete a questionnaire to determine if they or a family member are at risk for developing celiac disease
• Taste a delicious assortment of gluten-free foods prepared by local vendors and restaurants
• Tour the new endoscopy center at AGH-McCandless

The AGH McCandless Building is located at 9335 McKnight Road, Pittsburgh, Pa.


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