National Magazine Covers Celiac Disease But Not the Whole Story

The topic of celiac disease is hitting the mainstream. This weekend it was one of many conditions covered in short stories in a Special Women’s Health Report in USA Weekend, a magazine distributed in 623 newspapers throughout the country, with a circulation of 23 million people.

Seeing a story about celiac disease in the nation’s second-largest-circulation magazine is encouraging. However, as I mentioned in my last post, “The New Picture of Celiac Disease,” many stories in the media – the USA Weekend story, “Celiac: A Gut Reaction,” included – perpetuate the old picture of celiac disease: that people with celiac disease almost always have gastrointestinal symptoms and weight loss.

The USA Weekend story stated:

This inherited autoimmune disorder damages the small intestine, triggering chronic gas, diarrhea, stomach pain, weight loss, fatigue, mood changes and reduced absorption of nutrients.

Celiac disease can result in gastrointestinal symptoms, but in an increasing number of cases, it doesn’t.

As I explained in my last post:

Research conducted a few years ago found that the majority of adults with newly diagnosed celiac disease do not have the once-considered classic symptoms of diarrhea and malabsorption. A growing percentage have silent or atypical celiac disease, with either no symptoms, or symptoms such as bone disease, anemia, acid-reflux-type conditions, constipation, or neurologic symptoms.

Even in a short space, reporters need to be more accurate and explain that celiac disease often manifests with symptoms that aren’t felt gastrointestinally or aren’t felt at all. Celiac disease actually is associated with more than 200 different symptoms and conditions! If this information were more widely reported, many people without gastrointestinal symptoms might realize that celiac disease may apply to them, too. Then more people would get tested and get diagnosed with celiac disease more quickly, leading to fewer serious health complications.

© Copyright 2008 Melissa Diane Smith

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