Symptoms of Celiac Disease

The symptoms of celiac disease often appear in places outside the digestive system. Let's see what symptoms are related to the disease and which ones should warn you of a possible complication.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Written by Josberth Johan Benitez Colmenares, 11 July, 2021

Last update: 11 July, 2021

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, more than 200 symptoms of celiac disease have been identified. These can be concentrated exclusively in the digestive system or also appear in other areas of the body. It often doesn’t have symptoms, and its development is different in children and adults.

Knowing the signs of celiac disease is important to you in order to advance in the diagnostic process. A gluten-free diet helps improve the patient’s quality of life. As it isn’t uncommon to confuse it with another gastrointestinal disease, today we’ll show you the warning signs that characterize this autoimmune disorder.

Common symptoms of celiac disease

It isn’t an easy job to determine the most common symptoms of celiac disease, as the disease manifests itself differently in each person. Its intensity, frequency, and development according to age also differs between each patient.

Studies suggest that symptoms associated with the disorder may be mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, or dyspepsia. For this reason, only diagnostic tests can confirm the presence of celiac disease. The following manifestations have been identified as the most common of the disease:

Diarrhea

Symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea
This is one of the most annoying symptoms of celiac disease.

Diarrhea is a frequent symptom of celiac disease, so much so that it’s estimated to occur in 56% of cases. This can be mild or chronic and often smelly, bulky, and particularly runny. Diarrhea is a direct result of the malabsorption process in the intestine.

Fatigue

Studies have suggested that fatigue is the main symptom of the disease outside of the intestine. Moderate or severe fatigue is a consequence of poor absorption of food and can even lead to chronic fatigue syndrome. It can manifest itself regardless of age, physical condition, or a healthy lifestyle.

Rumbling

Bowel sounds are characterized by accompanying spasms, swelling or bloating. They can be mild or chronic and manifest irregularly after each meal.

Weight loss

Although we can, of course, find exceptions, many patients diagnosed with celiac disease are thin. This could be explained by inconveniences in the process of absorption of essential nutrients, and also by personal choice to avoid foods that are associated with the development of symptoms (as suggested by some indications).

Although it’s rare, some patients may develop what we know as a celiac crisis. Crises of this type have been documented with losses of up to 18 kilograms. Therefore, losing weight can accompany the above signs and worsen the quality of life of celiacs.

Abdominal pain

Since the small intestine becomes inflamed after eating gluten-containing foods, patients experience severe pain in the abdominal area. This is generally in the lower central part, although it can occur in the sides or middle area, according to the degree of inflammation.

These are the five most common symptoms of celiac disease. The list can be completed with episodes of constipation, vomiting, and nausea. All can manifest in children, during adolescence, and in adults. However, it’s important to note that digestive complications are less intense in the latter. Some related to adulthood are the following:

  • Heartburn sensation
  • Reflux
  • Bone pain
  • Anxiety
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Migraines

The list is almost endless, as each patient develops different manifestations. In children, it can cause short stature, delayed puberty, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and irritability. As they can be confused with other typical childhood complications, a diagnostic evaluation by a pediatrician is necessary for their confirmation.

Rare symptoms of celiac disease

Celiac disease is an unpredictable condition. We’ve shown you that its symptoms aren’t always concentrated in the gastrointestinal system. Now we’ll tell you about manifestations that, although they’re rare compared to the others, have been documented by thousands of people. In this case, we have chosen those indicated by the Canadian Celiac Association:

Anemia

Celiac disease symptoms include anemia
This is characterized by a decrease in the concentration of hemoglobin in the blood, and manifests itself as paleness and tiredness.

Anemia is characterized by a decrease in hemoglobin in the body. It usually occurs with a deficiency of iron, vitamin B12, and folate vitamins. The one that develops in celiac patients, specifically, is iron deficiency anemia. It is estimated that 33% of patients develop anemia at some point during their illness.

This is due to the way the mineral is absorbed. The process occurs in the duodenum (the first part of the intestine), which, unfortunately, is the most affected part during the ingestion of gluten.

Liver disorders

Having one autoimmune disorder increases the chances of developing another during the course of the disease. Although, in this case, its prevalence isn’t as high as with anemia, a greater risk of manifesting autoimmune hepatitis has been demonstrated.

Other liver disorders such as primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis can also develop. This also applies in reverse: patients diagnosed with these liver conditions are more likely to develop celiac disease.

Dental problems

Among the symptoms of celiac disease, we mentioned mouth sores. Another problem related to this area is tooth enamel wear, which can attack children and adults alike. Grooves, pitting, or even complete enamel loss can occur. Many patients only manifest this sign during the course of the disease.

Neurological disorders

In this group of conditions, peripheral neuropathy stands out. It consists of an inflammation of the nerves of the body, which generates symptoms such as tingling in the extremities or numbness.

Its relationship has been widely documented, to the point that it is the main neurological disorder associated with celiacs. Although an increased risk of epilepsy and seizures is suggested, more research is still lacking.

Infertility

Undiagnosed celiac disease has been shown to increase the chances of infertility. The reason for this isn’t yet clear, although it’s suspected that it may be due to low levels of absorption of zinc, selenium, and folic acid. A gluten-free diet can help reverse these risks.

Dermatitis herpetiformis

Also known as Dhuring’s disease, it is a chronic condition characterized by intense rashes accompanied by burning and inflammation. Research suggests that other skin conditions such as psoriasis, alopecia areata, and aphthous stomatitis can also occur in the company of celiac disease.

When to seek medical assistance?

Complications associated with the disease, as well as the development of rare symptoms, worsen if gluten intake isn’t stopped. The symptoms outlined aren’t unique to this condition, and so if you have them regularly, then you must go to a specialist to make the corresponding diagnosis.

Many patients self-diagnose without being sure of the cause of the symptoms. Avoid this at all costs, as the underlying reason may require a completely different type of therapy. Remember that your chances of suffering from the disease are higher if it’s common in your close family group.

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