Free Celiac Screening at University of Chicago Every October

free celiac screening
University of Chicago offers annual free celiac screening every October.

A free celiac screening is the perfect opportunity to get peace of mind. If you are having digestive problems and there’s a history of celiac in the family, get screened. Annual blood celiac screenings are held every October at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. They host their free celiac screening event during their Celiac Education Day usually held the second week of October on a Saturday.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where the body reacts by attacking the small intestine after the patient eats food with the gluten protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley. It is a tricky disease because it often goes several years before a patient i actually tested and treated. This is because celiac disease symptoms are unpredictable. They can be different for everyone and often times they mimic the symptoms of other diseases. The main issue is malabsorption which is caused by damage to the small intestine.

If you or a loved one suspects you may have this disease and you are in the Chicago area, call to make a reservation at: 773-702-7593. The center typically screens up to 400 people each year. They use the most reliable testing available to detect Celiac Disease. If you can’t get in for a free celiac screening this year, call them again in August.

Celiac RibbonPRE-REGISTRATION is required and begins annually around August 15th. Participants must be on a gluten diet prior to testing.

According to The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, you need to be eligible for testing to register.

Free Celiac Screening Eligibility:

Registrants will qualify for a free celiac screening with aTissue Transglutaminase IgA Test (tTG) on Celiac Education Day if:

  • They are eating a gluten-containing diet for 12 weeks prior to testing.
  • They are related to a close family member with celiac disease or type 1 diabetes.
  • They have Down syndrome.
  • They have a related autoimmune condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes.
  • They have digestive problems, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteopenia, osteoporosis, or type 1 diabetes.

Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease of the small intestine, attacks about 1 in 133 people. This figure is up about tenfold from a decade ago when doctors believed it only affected 1 in 1000. According to most sources,  most people with celiac disease are undiagnosed. When a person who has celiac disease eats gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye or barley, his or her immune system will overreact and attack the small intestine. First degree relatives of a patient diagnosed with celiac disease (parents, siblings, child) have a 1 in 22 chance of developing the disease. Second Degree relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents) have a 1 in 39 chance of developing the disease. Celiac can also cause neurological problems too.

Take advantage of this opportunity and make your reservation now, or visit the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center for more information.

The The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center will have a panel discussion for attendees. This gives guests a chance to ask questions about celiac disease and snack on free samples of gluten-free products.

Please note, the blood antibody screening tests for celiac disease cannot be given if you are on a gluten-free diet. To properly diagnose celiac disease, doctors have to see active damage in your intestines. If you are on a gluten free diet you will need to reintroduce gluten for at least 12 weeks before taking the celiac screening. The University of Chicago suggests eating one serving per day (1/2 slice of bread or a cracker). Participants wanting to take part in the free celiac screening need to do a gluten challenge under physician supervision.

About Celiac Screening Tests

The Tissue Transglutaminase IgA Test

There are two antibody blood screening tests for celiac disease. The Human Tissue Transglutaminase IgA Test (tTG) looks for antibodies directed against an enzyme normally present in the intestines called tissue transglutaminase. This is the most sensitive test available to screen for celiac disease antibodies. People with celiac disease that are eating gluten have elevated levels of these antibodies in their blood. But sometimes it is not enough to detect or diagnose celiac disease.

The tTG-IgA test gives a positive result for 98% of patients with celiac disease eating gluten for at least 12 weeks prior to the test. The tTG-IgA will give a negative result in about 95% of healthy people without celiac disease.  If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder like Type 1 Diabetes, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, or rheumatoid arthritis there is a chance you can get a false positive on this test even though you do not have celiac disease.

The Total Serum IgA Test

The Total Serum IgA is an additional test that looks specifically for an IgA deficiency. This is a condition can sometimes cause a false negative on a celiac antibody screening test such as the tTG-IgA or EMA result.  If you are IgA deficient, your doctor can order a DGP or tTG-IgG test.

The Anti-endomysial Antibody Test

There is also an Anti-endomysial Antibody Test (EMA-IgA). This is a test that is designed specifically for celiac disease. People who show an elevated level of EMA are most certainly celiac, however, it’s possible to have celiac disease and not have a positive EMA test result. This test is usually reserved for patients who are more difficult to diagnose.

Heredity and Celiac Disease

There is a greater risk of developing celiac disease if you have a parent, child, or a sibling diagnosed with it.  Heredity appears to have a major influence on the individual’s predisposition to celiac disease. Heredity is a major factor in determining your chances of getting celiac disease. A 2007 study in the Digestive and Liver Disease Journal showed that approximately 15% of the siblings of diagnosed patients also had celiac disease as well (Grover et al., 2007). And if you have a twin diagnosed with celiac disease your chances of testing positive are even higher.

Scientists have discovered that celiac disease occurs twice as often in women as it does in men. In 2008 an Italian research group published a study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology that suggests there is a higher chance for a woman to contract celiac disease if she inherits the gene from her father rather than her mother (Megiorni et al., 2008).

Celiac disease genes are not dominant or recessive. If you get genetic testing for celiac there are two known genes that are associated with celiac disease. They are DQ2 and DQ8. A person can have one or both and still be at risk for celiac disease. You can only get the genes from one or both of your parents and not other more distant relatives. This means that if you test positive for the genes that one or both of your parents also has them. If you have the genes this does not mean you have celiac disease. Only about 5% of people with one or both genes will test positive for celiac disease. Scientists have discovered that nearly 1/3 of the general population has one or both of these celiac disease genes. Since celiac is present in only 1% of the population doing a genetic screen will not positively identify whether you have celiac disease or not. Even if you have symptoms of gluten intolerance it is best to get a blood screening if you think you may have celiac disease. On the other hand, if you are already gluten free and want to know if you have the celiac gene and are a candidate for the celiac screening, you can take a genetic test without changing your diet. Sometimes patients will have the genes for celiac disease but a negative biopsy. These patients may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

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