What is a celiac disease test?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes a serious allergic reaction to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It’s also found in certain products, including some toothpastes, lipsticks, and medicines. A celiac disease test looks for antibodies to gluten in the blood. Antibodies are disease-fighting substances made by the immune system.
Normally, your immune system attacks things like viruses and bacteria. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten makes your immune system attack the lining of the small intestine, as if it were a harmful substance. This can damage your digestive system and may prevent you from getting the nutrients you need.
Other names: celiac disease antibody test, anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody (anti-tTG), deaminated gliadin peptide antibodies, anti-endomysial antibodies
What is it used for?
A celiac disease test is used to:
- Diagnose celiac disease
- Monitor celiac disease
- See if a gluten-free diet is relieving symptoms of celiac disease
Why do I need a celiac disease test?
You may need a celiac disease test if you have symptoms of celiac disease. Symptoms are different for children and adults.
Symptoms of celiac disease in children include:
Symptoms of celiac disease in adults include digestive problems such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chronic diarrhea
- Unexplained weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Bloating and gas
Many adults with celiac disease have symptoms that are not related to digestion. These include:
If you don’t have symptoms, you may need a celiac test if you are at higher risk of having the disease. You are more likely to have celiac disease if a close family member has celiac disease. You may also be at higher risk if you have another autoimmune disorder, such as type 1 diabetes.
What happens during a celiac disease test?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
If the test is being used to diagnose celiac disease, you’ll need to continue to eat foods with gluten for a few weeks before testing. Your health care provider will give you specific instructions about how to prepare for the test.
If the test is being used to monitor celiac disease, you don’t need any special preparations.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
What do the results mean?
There are different types of celiac disease antibodies. Your celiac test results may include information on more than one type of antibody. Typical results may show one of the following:
- Negative: You probably don’t have celiac disease.
- Positive: You probably do have celiac disease.
- Uncertain or indeterminate: It’s unclear whether you have celiac disease.
If your results were positive or uncertain, your provider may order a test called an intestinal biopsy to confirm or rule out celiac disease. During an intestinal biopsy, a health care provider will use a special tool called an endoscope to take a small piece of tissue from your small intestine.
Is there anything else I need to know about a celiac disease test?
Most people with celiac disease can reduce and often eliminate symptoms if they keep a strict gluten-free diet. Although many gluten-free products are available today, it can still be challenging to completely avoid gluten. Your health care provider may refer you to a dietician who can help you enjoy a healthy diet without gluten.