If you’re not familiar with celiac disease, it’s a genetic autoimmune condition that causes the immune system to damage the intestines when exposed to gluten. In some populations, up to 3 out of 100 will have the disease.
In celiac disease, the more common digestive symptoms are diarrhea and abdominal discomfort. But many of the other symptoms of celiac disease may surprise you—like other autoimmune diseases, it can cause numerous symptoms across different parts of the entire body.
In fact, the majority of people living with celiac disease are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions, and many will live their entire lives with the disease without knowing they had it. Celiac disease is almost impossible to diagnose without testing.
Here are some of the more common symptoms and signs of celiac disease:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloating and gas
- Cognitive impairment
- Depression and anxiety
- Headaches or migraines
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
- Joint pain
- Missed periods
- Mouth ulcers and canker sores
- Nausea and vomiting
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Reduced functioning of the spleen (hyposplenism)
- Weight loss
In children, symptoms may also include learning disabilities or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), delayed puberty, damage to tooth enamel, irritability, seizures and short stature, among others. With that said, most will not develop any symptoms until adulthood.
What to do if you think you have celiac disease
If these symptoms are sounding all too familiar, make an appointment to see your primary care physician or speak with a gastroenterologist if you already have a relationship with one. Your primary care doctor can do some initial testing and refer you to a gastroenterologist for more in-depth testing and evaluation if needed.
Living with celiac disease
The good news is, if you have celiac disease, there are lifestyle changes you can make to stay healthy and feel well. Although not an easy task, strict gluten avoidance from your diet allows your body to heal itself and over time, resolve any symptoms associated with celiac disease.
You may be encouraged to see a dietitian for individualized support in making these dietary changes. Fortunately, there are many delicious foods that are naturally gluten-free, and more and more gluten-free products are hitting the supermarket shelves every day. A dietitian can help make the process easier for you and your family as you adjust to gluten-free living.
- Talk to your primary care physician about your symptoms or find one today.
- Get digestive care near you by making an appointment with a gastroenterologist.
- Learn more about nutrition support for chronic diseases.
About the author
Rassa Shahidzadeh, MD, is a gastroenterologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Plano. Dr. Shahidzadeh received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He fulfilled both his internship and residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He then completed a fellowship in gastroenterology at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia. In 2006, Dr. Shahidzadeh was the recipient of the American College of Gastroenterology Fellow Recognition Award. He is clinically interested in colorectal cancer prevention, gastroesophageal reflux disease, disorders of the pancreas and biliary system, disorders of the intestinal tract, disorders of the liver, gastroparesis, and nutrition. Dr. Shahidzadeh is married with one son and one daughter. He enjoys spending time with his family, playing tennis and traveling.