WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- A study reveals that 1% of Caucasian Americans have celiac disease, but many are not aware they are affected.
The study was published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, and served to develop a more accurate picture of how celiac disease affects Americans, as most of the prior studies about the disease had been done in Europe.
Celiac disease is a digestive condition that is caused by eating gluten. For those with the disease, gluten causes an immune reaction that can damage the inner lining of the small intestine.
While there is no cure for celiac disease, those who have it can easily manage it by changing their diet to avoid gluten sources such as wheat, barley and rye.
The researchers tested 7,798 people and found that 35 showed signs of celiac disease. Of those 35, 29 were not aware of their condition.
Only 6 of the 35 with celiac disease were not white. This indicates that the disease is rare in non-whites, considering that the total number of non-whites surveyed was 4,368.
Dr. James Everhart, one of the researchers with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases told Reuters Health, "I think we confirmed the clinical suspicion that this is largely a condition found among non-Hispanic whites in this country."
Celiac disease can develop at any age, so it is difficult to know when to test for it if a patient is not exhibiting symptoms.
"If you don't have symptoms, it's hard to say categorically that identifying you as having this condition is going to do a lot of good at this point. That's for (other) studies to determine," Everhart said to Reuters Health.
According to Reuters, Everhart and his colleagues are continuing the survey to find out which groups of people are most at risk of celiac disease, and how celiac disease can affect general health.