Find out why screening for celiac disease is important

The first step in knowing for sure

Screening for celiac disease involves both genetic and antibody testing. Let’s define some key terms.

Screening means testing or examining to determine your risk of having or developing a disease.

Genes are inherited cellular units that provide the directions for building all proteins in our bodies.

Antibodies are produced in our bodies to destroy foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses.

Genetic testing

The genetic test will show if the genes necessary to develop the disease are present. This test is also good to rule out the disease. It can also be used to indicate the need for antibody testing every 3 years or immediately if symptoms appear.

Genetic testing may be particularly important for 1st-degree relatives (children, parents, siblings) of someone with biopsy-diagnosed celiac disease. Research shows the prevalence for 1st-degree relatives to be between 4-16%. Our own experience when testing for celiac disease in 1st-degree relatives is a prevalence around 5% (or 1:20).

Genetic testing is done with a blood test, saliva test, or cheek swab.

Antibody testing

People with celiac disease who eat gluten have higher-than-normal levels of certain antibodies in their blood. The immune system produces antibodies in response to substances that the body perceives to be threatening.

Think of antibodies as soldiers instructed to fight a specific enemy, only in the case of celiac disease, the enemy is actually supposed to be harmless—the proteins in wheat, rye, and barley known as gluten. The antibody blood test will show if your system is responding negatively to gluten.

Learn about our free blood screening day every October.

For more information

A positive genetic or antibody test result requires further action for diagnosis. Diagnosis occurs only with an endoscopic biopsy, a procedure that is explained in the Diagnosis section of the Web site.

Learn more about genetic screening, including who should be tested and what’s involved, in the Genetic Screening for Celiac Disease Factsheet.

Learn about three important antibodies (tTG, EMA, and DGP) plus who should get tested in the Antibody Screening for Celiac Disease Factsheet.

Find answers to common questions, including a question about screening, in the Fact or Fiction section of the Web site.

Learn more about the genetic testing kits available for at-home use from Kimball Genetics. You must see a doctor for antibody screening tests as part of an accurate diagnosis.

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