By: on In Living Healthy

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

Symptoms of celiac disease can vary between people. There are multiple factors involved in how symptoms present themselves in each individual.

Some of those factors include:

  • Duration of breastfeeding as a baby
  • Age of first introduction to gluten
  • Amount of gluten eaten
  • Age, as symptoms can differ between adults and young children
  • Amount of damage to the small intestine

Digestive Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Some people experience many digestive symptoms, while others only experience one or more problems as part of digestion. Children tend to suffer more often in these ways.

  • Bloating of the abdomen
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stools that are pale, foul-smelling or fatty
  • Gas
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Additional Problems for Children with Celiac Disease

Because celiac disease makes children unable to absorb nutrients during their most physically and mentally formative years, other health problems can result. Those include:

  • Infantile “failure to thrive”
  • Slowed growth and short height
  • Loss of weight
  • Mood changes or irritability
  • Delay in puberty
  • Defects in the enamel of permanent teeth

Common Signs of Celiac Disease in Adults

For adults with celiac disease, symptoms are less often digestive problems.

Instead, signs of the illness usually include:

  • Joint and bone pain
  • Anemia
  • Oral canker sores
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • An itchy and blistering rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Fatigue
  • Recurrent miscarriage
  • Infertility
  • Skipped menstrual periods
  • Seizures
  • Numbness or tingling of hands and feet
  • Brittle, weak bones or osteoporosis
  • Headaches

Indications of Celiac Disease Intestinal Inflammation

Additional symptoms can appear as a result of intestinal inflammation. Those signs of celiac disease often involve some of the following:

  • Fatigue or feeling tired for extended periods
  • Ulcers
  • Pain and bloating in the abdomen
  • Intestinal blockages

Autoimmune Reactions to Celiac Disease

Because much of the immune system’s functioning relies upon a healthy small intestine, an autoimmune reaction can occur in those with celiac disease. This self-directed immune reaction is when the patient’s immune system starts to attack healthy cells throughout the body. Negative effects can be experienced in the following parts of the body:

  • Spleen
  • Nervous system
  • Bones
  • Joints
  • Skin

Skin Rash Associated with Celiac Disease

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a skin rash that affects up to about 10 percent of celiac disease patients. It is a chronic, itchy and blistering rash which most often appears on the scalp, back, elbows, knees or buttocks. These lesions also sometimes appear on the genitalia or in the mouth, for men with the condition.  People who have dermatitis herpetiformis may show no other symptoms of celiac disease. This symptomatic condition is caused by skin deposits of antibodies triggered by consumption of gluten.
What makes celiac disease difficult to diagnose?

Celiac disease can be difficult to pinpoint as the cause of many of its symptoms, because those symptoms also appear as part of other illnesses. Celiac disease is often confused with other diseases and conditions. Some of those are:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Diverticulitis
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome
  • Infections of the intestines

Because the signs of gluten intolerance can mimic the signs of other disorders, celiac disease is often misdiagnosed. Blood tests, biopsies, genetic testing and other testing help clarify which disease is present and can provide for a more accurate diagnosis. As these tests develop and become more common, diagnosis of celiac disease is becoming more frequently confirmed.