What is
Celiac Disease? 

Celiac disease is a common, systemic autoimmune condition that can develop at any age, and is caused by eating gluten.1 Gluten is a general term for a group of proteins found in wheat and some other grains.2 If you have celiac disease, eating gluten causes your immune system to attack your own body’s tissues.1

 

Common signs and symptoms of celiac disease

You could have had celiac disease for a long time without realizing, because many people don’t get the ‘classical’ (gut-related) symptoms, such as diarrhea, constipation, tummy pain, bloating, and weight loss.1,5 This is because celiac disease can affect all different parts of your body, not just your gut. In fact, about 50% of people with celiac disease have symptoms not related to the gut.1

Common signs and symptoms in adults

About half of adults with celiac disease experience problems not directly related to the gut,1 including:

  • Fatigue6
  • Headaches6
  • Iron deficiency anemia7
  • Unexplained infertility or miscarriage7
  • Itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)7
  • Loss of bone density7
  • Damage to dental enamel7
  • Mouth ulcers7
  • Joint stiffness and pain7
  • Acid reflux and heartburn6
  • Delayed or irregular periods8
  • Early menopause8
  • Fatigue6
  • Headaches6
  • Iron deficiency anemia7
  • Unexplained infertility or miscarriage7
  • Itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)7
  • Loss of bone density7
  • Damage to dental enamel7
  • Mouth ulcers7
  • Joint stiffness and pain7
  • Acid reflux and heartburn6
  • Delayed or irregular periods8
  • Early menopause8

Common signs and symptoms in children

Infants and children tend to experience problems with their gut, such as: 

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Tummy pain or bloating
  • Constipation

Children can also get signs and symptoms not directly related to the gut, including:9

  • Failure to thrive
  • Fatigue
  • Behavioral issues
  • Delayed growth and puberty

Long-term complications of celiac disease

Most people with celiac disease haven’t been diagnosed, and therefore aren’t receiving proper management. Over time, untreated celiac disease can lead to malnutrition and other serious long-term health complications.1 Possible complications of celiac disease include:

  • Fragile bones (osteoporosis)7
  • Disorders of the nervous system7
  • Ulcers of the stomach and small bowel10
  • Cancers (including gut cancer and lymphoma)9

Finding out what’s causing your symptoms may provide relief now, and help you avoid more serious issues in the future.11 Consider talking to your healthcare provider about getting tested for celiac disease.

1. Gujral N, Freeman H J, Thomson A B. Celiac disease: prevalence, diagnosis, pathogenesis and treatment. World J Gastroenterol 2012;18(42):6036-6059 

2. Rostami Nejad M, Karkhane M et al. Gluten related disorders. Gastroenterol Hepatol Bed Bench 2012;5(Suppl 1):S1-S7

3. LibreTexts. Absorption in the small intestine. Available at: med.libretexts.org. Accessed June 2022

4. Dewar D H, Ciclitira P J. Clinical features and diagnosis of celiac disease. Gastroenterology 2005;128(4, Supplement 1):S19-S24

5. Frissora C L, Koch K L. Symptom overlap and comorbidity of irritable bowel syndrome with other conditions. Curr Gastroenterol Rep 2005;7(4):264-271

6. Leffler D A, Dennis M et al. A validated disease-specific symptom index for adults with celiac disease. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2009;7(12):1328-1334, 1334 e1321-1323

7. Leffler D A, Green P H, Fasano A. Extraintestinal manifestations of coeliac disease. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 2015;12(10):561-571

8. Shah S, Leffler D. Celiac disease: an underappreciated issue in women's health. Womens Health (Lond) 2010;6(5):753-766

9. Al-Toma A, Volta U et al. European Society for the Study of Coeliac Disease (ESsCD) guideline for coeliac disease and other gluten-related disorders. United European Gastroenterol J 2019;7(5):583-613

10. Levine A, Domanov S et al. Celiac-associated peptic disease at upper endoscopy: how common is it? Scand J Gastroenterol 2009;44(12):1424-1428

11. Lundin K E, Wijmenga C. Coeliac disease and autoimmune disease-genetic overlap and screening. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 2015;12(9):507-515