By Mark Abrams

LOWER MERION, Pa. (CBS) — A local health care organization conducted a celiac awareness event today for medical and clinical professionals.

At Lankenau Medical Center in Lower Merion, Dr. Keith Laskin, medical director for Main Line Health’s Celiac Center at Paoli Hospital, was among the main presenters during the event.

“Celiac disease can occur in people of any age — it’s very prevalent,” Dr. Laskin (top photo) tells KYW Newsradio.  “We believe it affects about one percent of the population, and it’s been increasing in prevalence.”

Celiac disease affects the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients. It’s triggered by a reaction to gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye.

A blood test, Laskin says, can detect the disease.  And right now, he adds, the only successful treatment is through diet.

(Dr. Peter Green.  Credit: Mark Abrams)

(Dr. Peter Green. Credit: Mark Abrams)

Dr. Peter Green (right), director of Columbia University’s Celiac Center, says raising public awareness about the disease is crucial in developing therapies beyond diet.

“Much less than 20 percent of those with Celiac Disease actually know they have it,” Green says, “so we’re very interested in looking at the doctor factors and the patient factors that are responsible for this low rate of diagnosis.”

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