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As gluten-free diets have been getting more popular, many people have started to wonder also if they should be tested for celiac disease, a condition that prevents gluten digestion. Only about 1 percent of Americans have celiac disease. But not everyone with celiac has been diagnosed. As NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports, a panel of experts say if you don't have symptoms of celiac, testing might not be for you.
REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: The new recommendation comes from an independent group called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Dr. Alexander Krist is one of its members.
ALEXANDER KRIST: Our main message is just that there really isn't evidence right now to say whether checking people for celiac disease if they don't have any signs or symptoms is beneficial.
HERSHER: It doesn't mean testing is bad, just that there's no evidence that it's helpful or harmful for people without celiac symptoms. The primary screening for celiac disease is a simple blood test to look for an antibody. It's often covered by insurance for people with symptoms of celiac. Krist says the task force looked into who should be tested because more and more people are asking their doctors about it.
KRIST: Gluten-free diets are widely promoted. And I think a lot of individuals wonder if gluten is bad for their health. So it's not uncommon for people to come to the doctor and to ask if they should be avoiding gluten and if they might have celiac disease and if they should be tested.
HERSHER: So if only people with symptoms should be tested, what are the symptoms? Celiac disease has the dubious distinction of a really impressive variety of uncomfortable effects - abdominal pain, gas, weight loss, anemia, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue, even infertility and some neurological problems.
Some people are at higher risk for developing the disease, like people with Type 1 diabetes or those who have a family member with celiac. Dr. Ivor Hill is a celiac specialist at Nationwide Children's in Ohio. He says for families with elevated risk, he generally lets them choose whether to be tested, even if they don't have symptoms.
IVOR HILL: Now, I have some families who adamantly want to know and have everybody screened. Well, we'll go ahead and do that. But others who are quite comfortable saying no, they'd rather just keep an eye on their children, and if they ever develop symptoms then consider having them screened immediately. It's got to be an individual decision, I think.
HERSHER: But he and Dr. Krist agree, if you're concerned you might have celiac disease, the number one thing to do is see a doctor. Rebecca Hersher, NPR News.
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