Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease

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  • Cropped image of Caucasian woman holding pelvis in pain or discomfort

    Celiac disease is an autoimmune and digestive disorder caused by an intolerance to gluten, a natural storage protein which is found in wheat, rye and barley. People with celiac disease have an immune response that eventually damages the lining of the small intestine and can cause malnutrition because the body can’t absorb nutrients effectively.

    Celiac disease symptoms are different for everyone. More than 200 signs and symptoms are associated with the condition, which can sometimes make it hard for doctors to confirm a celiac disease diagnosis, leaving many people undiagnosed or diagnosed with some other health problem. Know the symptoms of celiac disease so you can talk to your doctor if you notice anything abnormal.

  • 1
    Digestive Symptoms
    Woman sitting on toilet with roll of toilet paper in her lap

    Celiac disease in children is most likely to produce digestive symptoms that lead to malabsorption and malnutrition. This is classic celiac disease. Celiac disease symptoms in adults are usually non-classic, meaning there are one or more signs unrelated to digestion. Digestive symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • 2
    Malnutrition Symptoms
    Young baby being fed with spoon

    Celiac disease in children, especially babies and very young children, often results in malnutrition. Gluten damages the small intestine, so the body can’t absorb nutrients in food effectively. When this happens, children’s bodies can’t grow normally, which results in developmental problems. Older kids are less likely to experience these problems. Malnutrition in babies and young children can result in:

    • Short stature
    • Failure to thrive in babies
    • Delayed growth or puberty
    • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • 3
    Skin and Bone Symptoms
    Unseen woman scratching rash on elbow

    With celiac disease, rashes are common, especially in children. Also known as dermatitis herpetiformis, these blistering rashes often affect the elbows, knees, scalp and buttocks, and they can be very itchy and painful. Other skin and bone symptoms of celiac disease include:

    • Loss of bone density, known as osteoporosis, because of difficulty absorbing calcium and vitamin D
    • Pain in the bones or joints
    • Arthritis
    • Damaged tooth enamel and discolored teeth
  • 4
    Pain Symptoms
    woman with tooth pain

    In addition to pain in the joints and bones, people with celiac disease may also have pain elsewhere. These symptoms include:

  • 5
    Neurological Symptoms
    Businessman with headache sitting at desk in office

    In addition to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities, celiac disease can produce other neurological symptoms in both children and adults. These symptoms include:

  • 6
    Emotional Symptoms
    Grumpy child looking at camera

    Not all celiac disease symptoms are physical. Emotional and mental symptoms include:

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    Other Signs and Symptoms
    Women feeling sick and sleeping on sofa at home

    Because celiac disease is a multisystem condition, meaning it affects organs other than the small intestine, symptoms can occur elsewhere in the body. Other celiac disease symptoms include:

  • 8
    No Symptoms
    Mother holding noodle for young daughter to eat

    People with no symptoms have what is called silent or asymptomatic celiac disease, but the condition still causes damage to the small intestines if you eat foods containing gluten. If you receive a celiac disease diagnosis, your immediate family members should be tested, even if they have no symptoms, because the condition runs in families. These include your parents, siblings and children.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Apr 27
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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