Celiac Support Association

Does Your Child Have Celiac Disease?

Sick in Bed

What To Expect When You Visit The Doctor

Have you been sick for a long time? Have you been feeling tired a lot or having headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, an itchy rash, or finding it hard to pay attention? Have you been to the doctor a lot lately?
It may have been a long time since you felt good and it seems like your doctor is having a hard time finding out what is making you sick. Luckily, there are a few medical tests that can help. Right now, your doctor thinks that you might have a disease called celiac disease. (It's pronounced " see-lee-ack disease" or CD for short, because it's easier to say.) If you have an itchy rash, you may also have dermatitis herpetiformis ("derma-tie-tiss her-peti-for-miss" or DH for short).

In order to find out for sure, your doctor will begin by running a few tests on your blood. Some of these tests can be done right in the doctor's office. Others will need to be done at a special medical lab. Even though you may be in a strange place, surrounded by unusual things and people, it is important that you relax and trust your doctor. Being nervous can make your arm get really tense, making it hard for the blood to flow smoothly. If the blood doesn't flow easily, the person trying to help you might have to stick the needle in your arm more than once.

In order to do the test properly, a nurse or medical technician will have to use a special needle which is attached to a little tube which will hold your blood. Just before the sample is taken, a thick rubber band will be tied around your upper arm. This is done to make the veins on the inside of your elbows get bigger so they are easier to see. (If you are extremely sensitive to pain, you can ask your doctor to order a special cream that can be put on your arm to numb it before they take the sample.) The needle will go into one of those veins and the blood will begin to fill the collection tube. It should only take a few minutes. When the tube is full, the nurse may take off that tube and put another empty one on until it is filled, too. (Don't worry; you have lots of extra blood and they will never take more than they need.) When they have enough blood for all the tests, they will remove the needle and give you a Band-Aid® to cover the hole the needle made.

Vials of Blood

If the blood tests show that you have a sensitivity to gluten (pronounced " glue-ten"), then your doctor will probably refer you to a gastroenterologist (pronounced "gas-troh-enter-all-oh-jist"). A gastroenterologist is a doctor who knows a lot about things in the digestive system. The gastroenterologist will probably schedule you for an endoscopy (pronounced "en-doss-kuh-pea). An endoscopy allows the doctor to take pictures of the insides of your esophagus ("ee-soff-uh-gus"), stomach and small intestine. When you have CD, the villi (little hair like structures, pronounced " vill-eye") in your small intestine are damaged and can't do their jobs. While the doctor looks at the villi with a tiny camera, a small sample, called a biopsy ("by-op-see"), will be taken. The biopsy will then be studied under a microscope, to see if the insides of your small intestine are healthy or damaged.

Child with Doctor


If you have dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy, red rash), you will also need to see to another special doctor called a dermatologist ("derma-tall-uh-jist"). A dermatologist knows a lot about skin and the problems people have with their skin. The dermatologist will probably need to take some samples of your rash to make sure that it is DH and not something else. One sample will be taken where you have the rash and another one from an area that does not have the rash. These samples will be sent to a lab to be tested.

The tests will tell the doctor if you have celiac disease or not. If you do not, more tests may need to be taken to find out what is making you sick. If the tests do show that you have celiac disease your doctor will tell you to see a dietitian ("die-ah-ti-shun"). A dietitian is a person who knows a lot about nutrition and how the foods we eat can help us or hurt us.

The reason it is important for you to see a dietitian is because the only way for you to feel healthy again is by being very careful about what you eat. You see, when you have celiac disease, your body does not like a certain part of some foods called gluten. Luckily, this gluten is only found in foods that have wheat, barley, rye or oats (WBRO) in them. It might seem easy to simply not eat foods that have those things in them, but you will be surprised at all the places WBRO can hide. A dietitian can help you find all those places. Because your new food choices will not have gluten in them, we call your new eating plan a "gluten-free diet." The best part of all is that once you are completely gluten-free you will begin to feel better and will be able to enjoy being a kid again.

Kids on Teeter Totter

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