Celiac Disease Symptoms

Celiac disease symptoms can vary widely from person to person and celiac symptoms often manifest differently in children than in adults. Symptoms are very severe in some people and are minimal in others. Many of the symptoms of celiac disease can be managed by a careful diet, but some may require additional treatment.

Celiac Disease Symptoms of Malabsorption

Damage to the lining of the small intestine in people with celiac disease causes malabsorption of many nutrients. People with celiac disease often do not absorb carbohydrates or protein as well as most people do, but the nutrient most affected by malabsorption is fat. Difficulties absorbing fat account for many of the most common celiac symptoms. Common symptoms include abdominal bloating, foul-smelling gas, diarrhea, and increased amounts of fat in the stool (called steatorrhea). Lactose, a carbohydrate or sugar found in dairy products like milk, may also not be absorbed well, and this contributes to these symptoms.

This malabsorption may also cause weight loss, although some people with celiac disease develop large appetites as the body attempts to take in the nutrients it needs but is not absorbing. Weight loss may also be masked by fluid retention.

Celiac Disease Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies

Because of the malabsorption common with celiac disease, people with the condition may develop certain vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue, nerve damage (which may cause numbness or tingling in the hands and feet and can make walking difficult), depression, and problems with memory and concentration. Iron deficiency can lead to severe fatigue. Vitamin D and calcium deficiency can lead to the development of osteoporosis. Vitamin K deficiency can lead to problems with blood clotting. Potassium deficiency can lead to severe muscle cramps and heart problems.

Nutritional deficiencies can be very serious. For instance, nerve damage due to B12 deficiency can be permanent, and potassium deficiency can lead to fatal heart failure. These problems can be treated with nutritional supplements, however.

Other Celiac Disease Symptoms

Other celiac symptoms include joint and bone pain, a severe skin rash known as dermatitis herpetiformis, mouth ulcers, seizures, fluid retention (causing swollen ankles), and missed menstrual periods. Women may have fertility problems or suffer miscarriages if they do become pregnant. Nutritional deficiencies may lead to birth defects in a developing fetus.

People with celiac disease may suffer from other autoimmune disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. They may also develop thyroid disorders, diabetes, or Sjogren’s syndrome, a condition in which the glands do not produce enough moisture. Rarely, people with celiac disease develop intestinal cancer.

Celiac Symptoms in Infants and Children

Celiac disease symptoms in children often include diarrhea, steatorrhea, and weight loss. Symptoms often appear or worsen once infants begin eating gluten-containing cereals. Infants may be irritable due to abdominal discomfort. Failure to thrive, or the failure to grow properly, is common. If children with the condition do not receive proper treatment, they may be of short stature as adults.

Celiac Symptoms in Adults

Some adults do have symptoms of celiac disease, but many have no symptoms or very few symptoms. In fact, it used to be thought that celiac disease was something that only affected children, but now doctors know it can affect adults as well. Sometimes celiac disease in adults is misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome because the symptoms can look similar. Symptoms may worsen during pregnancy. Adults are more likely than children to develop complications like osteoporosis as a result of celiac disease.

Additional Reading: Follow these links to learn more about the
diet for celiac disease, foods containing gluten, and gluten intolerance symptoms.  Learning what foods contain gluten is extremely important if you have celiac desease.  We also have sections on celiac testing, the malabsorption symptoms celiac disease causes, and the symptoms of celiac disease candida.  To find out more about gluten allergy symptoms, diagnosing gluten allergy or the wheat free diet, just follow the links.

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