The transglutaminase blood test is typically ordered as part of a diagnostic series to determine if someone may have celiac disease. It can also be used to determine if there are other autoimmune disorders that are affecting someone’s health. In celiac disease, the body’s immune system misinterprets the presence of gluten from wheat, rye, and barley products as a foreign invader and attacks the food particles. In doing so, an autoimmune response to intestinal enzymes is also created, which can eventually affect someone’s digestive health.
Sometimes the symptoms of celiac disease are difficult to pin down. Because the small intestine becomes inflamed and swollen due to the autoimmune attack, it doesn’t necessarily stop working. If someone has a digestive tract that can keep working through the issue, then there may be no symptoms at all. Heartburn, bloating, gas, and a change in bowel movements are also possible.
What Do My Test Results Mean?
The transglutaminase blood test results may be either positive or negative. A negative test result will generally mean that someone is not at risk for celiac disease. A positive test result increases the chances of celiac disease may be present, but it cannot be used as a diagnostic tool. Only a biopsy of the small intestine can actually definitively determine whether the autoimmune disorder is present or not.
It is important to maintain a gluten eating diet while going through the testing for this disease. If someone is eating a gluten-free diet, then there won’t be an autoimmune response present. This will create a negative test result even though the disease may be present.
Only 3% of people in the United States who have celiac disease do not have either the DQ2 or DQ8 HLA markers, compared to 60% of the general population. A positive test that is accompanied by inflammation symptoms, canker sores that are recurrent, and chronic fatigue may be a strong indication that the disease is present, but the next step is usually the ordered biopsy. Some individuals with a family history of celiac disease may be assumed to have the condition, however, and be instructed to treat the disease.
How Is Celiac Disease Treated?
The only way to treat celiac disease is to maintain a strict gluten-free diet. For some individuals, this may even include removing oats from their diet. Certain grains such as rice and corn, however, are generally acceptable to the diet. Many individuals find that they must avoid processed foods, eating at fast food establishments, and make other lifestyle adjustments that can be difficult to accept, especially in the first days of a diagnosis.
Most, but not all, individuals who continue to eat gluten-free without exception eventually see an improvement in their symptoms and overall energy levels. The autoantibodies created by the immune response are reduced and any atrophy present begins to improve.
Why Else Might This Test Be Ordered?
If celiac disease has been confirmed, then a medical provider may continue to order the transglutaminase blood test to monitor the effectiveness of a person’s gluten-free diet. Over time, removing gluten should remove the IgA class of antibodies that are present when celiac disease is active in those over the age of 2. Some people, however, may be deficient in the antibody and benefit from having an IgG blood test instead that measures the anti-transglutaminase levels in the blood as well. Other tests may also be included during the diagnostic period to pin down a positive result.
Some people may have gluten sensitive conditions, but not have celiac disease. The most common issue is called dermatitis herpetiformis, which causes an itchy, blistering rash on the skin that can sometimes look like an outbreak of acne. It may appear on the upper arms or legs commonly, but can be anywhere on the body.
An allergy to wheat or gluten is different than celiac disease. An allergic response also includes acute symptoms, but it won’t damage the lining of the intestines as celiac disease will. Getting tested for allergies to gluten-containing products may occur if there is a negative blood test result, but symptoms that are similar to celiac disease occurring.
Even though the only way to treat celiac disease is to eat a gluten-free diet, until a diagnosis is obtained, it is important to include some gluten on a daily basis. This will keep the autoimmune response triggered so that the transglutaminase blood test results can be accurate.