Types of Celiac Disease and Their Symptoms

Celiac disease can develop due to different manifestations. These are distinguished by their symptoms and where they are focused. Let's get to know four of its most frequent types and some considerations regarding them.
Types of Celiac Disease and Their Symptoms

Written by Josberth Johan Benitez Colmenares, 25 June, 2021

Last update: 25 June, 2021

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can manifest itself in different ways. In general, these are characterized by specific symptoms and require a specific diagnostic process. Today we’ll show you the different types of celiac disease and how you can distinguish them.

Before proceeding, it’s important to clarify that the different types don’t refer to different degrees of the disease. Celiac disease doesn’t manifest itself in degrees (that is, in increasing levels of seriousness).

Where there is often a division into degrees is in what we call the Marsh classification, This is a method of determining the extent of the harm to the gut and intestines in affected people.

So, now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s take a look at the different types of celiac disease.

How many types of celiac disease are there?

There’s no standard division to catalog the types of celiac disease. The Federation of Celiac Associations (FACE) proposes the following: symptomatic, subclinical, latent (A and B) and potential.

This is the basis we’re going to start from, and the only thing we’ll do is to change the names so that you can understand them better. The types of celiac disease that a patient can experience are the following:

Typical celiac disease

The types of celiac disease are varied
Because the symptoms of celiac disease are so obvious, those with typical celiac disease are likely to receive an early diagnosis.

Also known as classic celiac disease, this is one that manifests itself through signs and symptoms in the gastrointestinal system. It’s often diagnosed during childhood or adolescence, as the disorder is particularly intense during the first years of life. Although they’re very varied, the classic symptoms are as follows:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Flatulence
  • Sickness
  • Heartburn
  • Vomiting

Problems in the absorption process can also lead to weight loss and growth retardation. Doctors will diagnose it through serology, genetic tests, and an endoscopy with a biopsy. Treatment usually consists of completely eliminating gluten from the diet. By doing so, the symptoms disappear and the villi in the intestine can regenerate.

Atypical celiac disease

In atypical celiac disease, patients don’t develop symptoms in the intestinal area or, if they do, they’re very mild and intermittent. On the contrary, the signs are manifested in other parts of the body, which can suggest that the problem must be related to another disease. These occur in both adults and children:

  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Changes in mood
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Numbness of the limbs
  • Bone pain
  • Depression
  • Ulcers in the mouth

Evidence suggests that episodes of ataxia and dermatitis herpetiformis may also occur. As for children, some studies indicate that psychiatric manifestations are not uncommon. For example, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Silent celiac disease

This one of the most dangerous types of celiac disease, as there are no obvious symptoms or signs of the disorder. Patients with silent celiac disease consume gluten without it triggering signs in the gastrointestinal tract or other parts of the body. However, the absence of symptoms doesn’t mean that the condition is harmless.

For example, the main side effect is anemia. Studies have certified that iron deficiency is very common in people with this variant, so much so that serological tests to diagnose it should be carried out as a protocol against anemia. Other research also points to infertility, especially in women.

These are only two related complications, as the catalog of diseases due to subclinical or silent celiac disease is greater. If you have another autoimmune disorder (psoriasis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis) or have a history of celiac disease in your family, you should take a test to rule it out.

Refractory celiac disease

Types of celiac disease include refractory celiac disease
Symptoms of this condition persist despite abstaining from gluten consumption. Furthermore, the diagnostic process is long, as it is considered an “exclusionary” condition.

Finally, we find refractory celiac disease. This is characterized by chronic symptoms, generally both at an intestinal and extra-intestinal level. The peculiarity of this type of celiac disease is that its signs appear even when patients don’t consume gluten in their diet.

With refractory celiac disease, the villi in the intestine haven’t regenerated as expected, leading to nutrient malabsorption and other related complications. Researchers divide it into normal (type I) and abnormal (type II), with a particularly unfavorable prognosis, symptoms, and treatment in the latter case.

Compared to the others, it’s very rare, so much so that experts estimate that it only affects 1 percent of cases. The diagnosis process is very complex, as dozens of diseases and even a possible inadvertent gluten contamination must first be ruled out. In fact, very often, the diagnosis of refractory celiac disease is only due to the latter.

What do I do if I suspect that I have a type of celiac disease?

Whether you’re in risk groups or you develop some of the symptoms, ideally you should seek medical assistance to either rule out or diagnose the disease. Experts don’t recommend starting treatment before this (that is, to eliminate gluten from the diet), as this could condition the test results and cause false negatives.

These days, gluten-free diets have become very popular. Celebrities and advertising campaigns assure us that it’s a healthy, easy, and fast method to lose weight, avoid certain diseases, and experience more vitality. Despite all the excitement this may generate, we know that non-celiac people shouldn’t follow a gluten-free diet.

If they do, they’re at risk of developing a deficiency (regarding fiber, for example) or not meeting the number of nutrients necessary for the demands of their bodies. It’s for this reason that you shouldn’t start a gluten-free diet if you’re not sure if you have this genetic disorder.

Whatever the case, we recommend you contact a nutritionist when making such sudden changes in your diet.

Remember that gluten sensitivity has nothing to do with the types of celiac disease (that is why we haven’t included it here). Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if symptoms persist.

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