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Inherited Disorders and Birth Defects

Celiac disease



My niece has been diagnosed with celiac disease recently. Her immediate family was tested, but no one else has it. I have been recently diagnosed with osteoporosis at age 51 (both my grandmother and mother had this). My research indicates that osteoporosis and celiac disease often goes hand in hand. Should I be tested for celiac disease, too, even though I am not immediate family?


This question has been forwarded by Allergies:

You are correct. Diseases that affect the intestinal tract such as celiac disease may be associated with osteoporosis because the absorption of nutrients that are vital to bone health such as calcium and vitamin D are impaired.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects primarily the small intestine. When people with Celiac disease eat foods with gluten in it (anything with wheat such as cereals, other grains such as rye and barley) it leads to inflammation and damage of the lining of the small intestine such that people cannot properly absorb nutrients. This can result in malnutrition and other complications, such as osteoporosis.

Celiac disease has been found to have a strong genetic component. First degree relatives to someone with Celiac disease should be evaluated and tested for the disease. Your niece is a first degree relative once removed, so not quite as close as your sisters or brothers. If no other family members have this, most likely you do not have an increased chance of developing celiac disease. Moreover, most people with osteoporosis (and no family history of celiac disease) do not usually have an increased chance of developing celiac disease. However, because you have a niece with the disorder, you may want to discuss testing with your doctor.

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Response by:

Anne   Matthews, RN, PhD Anne Matthews, RN, PhD
Associate Professor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University