Celiac Disease (cont.)
Bhupinder Anand, MD
In this Article
How are malabsorption and malnutrition evaluated in celiac disease?
Celiac disease causes malabsorption of nutrients and leads to malnutrition. Tests are available that help in the evaluation of malabsorption and malnutrition; however, because other diseases can cause both malabsorption and malnutrition, these tests cannot be used to diagnose celiac disease.
Stool examination for malabsorption
Fat in a sample of stool placed on a glass slide can be stained with a dye (Sudan stain) to make the fat visible under the microscope as globules. Stool from patients with celiac disease often contains many stained globules of fat, and Sudan staining is a quick and easy screening test for increased amounts of fat in the stool (steatorrhea). To conclusively diagnose steatorrhea, however, stool is collected over a 72-hour period, and the fat in the stool is chemically measured and quantified. Steatorrheic stools have abnormally high quantities of fat. Since malabsorption and steatorrhea can occur with other intestinal diseases (such as small intestinal bacteria overgrowth, small intestinal resection, extensive Crohn's disease of the small intestine, and chronic pancreatitis), stools with large amounts of fat only raises the suspicion of celiac disease but cannot be used to diagnose celiac disease.
Blood tests for malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies
Malabsorption reduces the absorption of protein and causes a reduction in blood protein levels. This can be seen commonly as a reduced blood level of albumin, the most concentrated protein in blood. Other proteins in blood, for example, transferrin also may be reduced.
Intestinal malabsorption can lead to deficiencies and low blood levels of iron, calcium, vitamin B12, folate, Vitamin D and vitamin K. These deficiencies, in turn, can lead to other blood test abnormalities such as:
Iron deficiency anemia, abnormal ProTime, steatorrhea, and low iron and vitamin levels can occur in diseases other than celiac disease. Therefore, the presence of these abnormalities only raises the suspicion of celiac disease but does not specifically diagnose celiac disease.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/12/2013
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