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JAMA Patient Page
May 18, 2005

Celiac Disease

JAMA. 2005;293(19):2432. doi:10.1001/jama.293.19.2432

Celiac disease is a genetic (inherited) digestive disorder of the small intestine manifested by interference with absorption of nutrients from food. Other names for celiac disease are sprue, nontropical sprue, and celiac sprue. Individuals who have celiac disease cannot tolerate a protein called gluten, which is present in wheat, rye, and barley. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system reacts, resulting in damage to the lining of the small intestine. Celiac disease can be diagnosed with blood tests and by examining a small piece of the intestine from a biopsy.

The May 18, 2005, issue of JAMA includes an article reporting that infants who had initial exposure to foods containing wheat, barley, or rye either in the first 3 months of life or after 6 months were at increased risk for celiac disease. This Patient Page is adapted from one originally published in the March 20, 2002, issue of JAMA.