Celiac Disease

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Symptoms can vary depending on age, severity of bowel damage and the degree to which nutrient absorption has been compromised.

Typical symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhoea, gastrointestinal disturbances (abdominal bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, constipation, nausea, vomiting), growth problems (stunting) and anaemia, but not everyone exhibits these. In fact, only 50 per cent of the cases may suffer from diarrhoea. Other symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, tiredness, bone problems (osteoporosis and cramps), skin problems (dermatitis herpetiformis), infertility, mouth ulcers, numbness and behavioural problems (depression, anxiety, irritability and poor school performance).

In infants and children, stunted growth, weight loss and diarrhoea are common manifestations. In older children and adults, symptoms such as mouth ulcers, fatigue, bloating, cramps and diarrhoea are common. Absence of typical symptoms makes the diagnosis difficult and can lead to ill health and life-threatening maladies.

People with hidden, latent or a silent form of celiac disease (refer to ‘Types of Celiac Disease’ below) are in greater danger, as they are at a higher risk of developing severe forms of malnutrition and non-specific ill health. Further, if it remains undiagnosed, it can prove fatal. Undiagnosed and untreated celiac disease increases the risk of disorders like type-1 diabetes mellitus, autoimmune diseases, liver diseases, thyroid disorders, pulmonary diseases such as asthma, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease as well as certain cancers.

Celiac disease exhibits a wide spectrum of clinical manifestations. Because of this, it may not be correctly diagnosed. Only a small proportion of people show classical or typical symptoms and in several individuals, it may lie latent, with an absence of clear symptoms, or with non-specific ones. Clinicians believe that to detect celiac disease, one has to look for it.