If you suspect you may be gluten intolerant or have celiac disease, visiting a doctor that specializes in gastroenterology is a good first step. Going on a gluten-free diet is a serious, life-changing event that requires a sound diagnosis of the condition first, and the most accurate diagnosis is obtained with an intestinal biopsy. It’s performed via an endoscopy under conscious sedation. However, before undertaking such an invasive measure, a doctor will generally perform blood tests. Some doctors may choose to do the biopsy first, based on the nature of the symptoms and family history.
Without getting technical, there are four specific blood tests for celiac disease that provide highly sensitive results and serve as the first road to diagnosis for the disease. All four tests comprise a panel for blood work that look for antibody levels associated with gluten; the results help determine whether or not a biopsy should be the next step to a diagnosis. Some doctors may consider positive results from the blood tests to be a diagnosis.
The test for dermatitis herpetiformis is a skin biopsy, and is performed at the site of the rash after an outbreak. Should this test be positive, the diagnosis for celiac disease is confirmed and the intestinal biopsy is not needed.
Although not a diagnostic test for celiac disease, genetic testing is a viable alternative for helping to rule out which members of the family will not develop celiac disease. Plus, it’s an option for those who have been following a gluten-free diet for a while and don’t want to take on the “gluten challenge,” in order to produce accurate blood test results, but want more concrete evidence as to whether or not they have the genetic marker for the disease.