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10 September 2012

Even as acute wheat allergy or celiac disease, as it is medically known, was thought to be a rare affliction, a city-based registry has recorded huge numbers to prove otherwise.

Started in September last year, the celiac disease registry has already recorded 200 cases from across Maharashtra, with most of them being adults.

Celiac disease is a genetic disorder, where the body shows intolerance to a protein composite known as gluten found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. Doctors inform that low public awareness makes the disease go undetected for years. Patients affected with the allergy have symptoms, which are often subtle, such as inability to gain much weight or height, recurrent diarrhoea, anaemia etc.

"There haven’t been any extensive study to suggest the incidence of this disease in Maharashtra. Until recently, we thought it was uncommon here. Now, with newer tools and tests, we have been diagnosing more cases across the state," said paediatric gastroenterologist Dr Vishnu Biradar, who is a consultant at Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital and Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital. Biradar, who is also coordinating for the registry, said that the treatment for celiac disorder is simple. "Those having this allergy only need to avoid food containing gluten, which includes food items such as wheat chapatti, biscuits, chocolates, bread, cake etc. Thankfully these days, some stores do store gluten-free products and hence patient doesn’t miss anything," he said.

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"Most doctors don’t suspect these symptoms to be associated with the disease. For example, if an adult patient has irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), many gastroenterologists don’t suspect celiac disease. However, we have found that to be one of most common manifestations of wheat allergy,"Biradar said.

Patients suspected to have celiac disease need to undergo serological tests such as tTG-IgA. However, doctors say even positive reports can be misleading, as they could be false positive. Hence, an endoscopy is conducted after the test to confirm celiac disease.

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