Celiac disease – Symptoms and causes

celiac disease symptoms in adults

The celiac disease is also called coeliac or sprue. It is an immune reaction to eating a gluten which is a protein found in rye, barley and wheat. If you suffer from celiac disease and you eat gluten, then it can trigger an immune response in your small intestine. As the time passes, this reaction is damaging your small intestine’s lining and also it prevents absorption of some nutrients (this is known as malabsorption). This intestinal damage can often cause anemia, bloating, weight loss, fatigue and diarrhea and this could lead to serious complications. When children have malabsorption, then it can affect their growth and development and also they have the symptoms that are seen in adults. You should know that there is not a cure for the celiac disease but many people who follow strict gluten – free diet can help to manage their symptoms and promote intestinal healing. [1,2]

Symptoms of celiac disease

The signs and symptoms of the celiac disease can vary a lot and they are different in adults and children. Weight loss, fatigue and diarrhea are the most common signs of celiac disease in adults. Also adults can experience vomiting, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain, bloating and gas. You should know that more than half of adults have celiac disease signs and symptoms which are not related to the digestive system [3], such as

  • Acid reflux and heartburn
  • Reduced functioning of the spleen (hyposplenism)
  • Joint pain
  • Nervous system injury, including numbness and tingling in the feet and hands, possible problems with balance and cognitive impairment
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Damage to dental enamel
  • Itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • Loss of bone density (osteoporosis) or softening of bone (osteomalacia)
  • Anemia, usually resulting from iron deficiency

celiac disease wiki

Symptoms of celiac disease in the Children

Those children, who are under 2 years old, have some of the following signs and symptoms [4]:

  • Muscle wasting
  • Poor appetite
  • Failure to thrive
  • Swollen belly
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Older children can experience:

  • Your children can have neurological symptoms, including attention – deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, headaches, lack of muscle coordination and seizures
  • Delayed puberty
  • Short stature
  • Irritability
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

The dermatitis herpetiformis is an itchy and blistering skin disease which is caused by the celiac disease. This rash is usually happening on the buttocks, scalp, torso, knees and elbows. The dermatitis herpetiformis is often associated with changes to the lining of the small intestine identical to those of the celiac disease but this disease may not produce noticeable digestive symptoms. Doctors are treating this condition with medications or gluten – free diet or both to control the rash.

Causes of celiac disease 

The interaction between many factors, such as eating foods with gluten, genes and other environmental factors are leading to the celiac disease, but the exact cause for celiac disease is not known. Gut bacteria, gastrointestinal infections and infant feeding practices might contribute to the development of this condition. It is known that there are some cases when the celiac disease is triggered or it becomes active for the first time after childbirth, pregnancy, surgery, viral infection or severe emotional stress. When your immune system is overreacting to gluten in food, then this reaction is damaging the tiny and hair – like projections (villi), which line the small intestine. Villi absorb minerals, vitamins and other nutrients from the food we eat. If the villi is damaged, then you cannot get enough nutrients no matter how much you eat. There are some gene variations which can increase the risk of developing this condition. If you have these gene variations, then this does not mean that you will get celiac disease for sure and this suggests that additional factors can be involved. In the Western countries is estimated that about 1% of population has celiac disease [5]. It is noticed that celiac disease is most common in Caucasians. Nowadays, celiac disease is being diagnosed among many ethnic groups and it is being found globally.


[1] Demin OO, Smirnov SV, Sokolov VV, et al. Modeling of celiac disease immune response and the therapeutic effect of potential drugs. BMC Systems Biology. 2013;7:56.

[2] Bhatia BK, Millsop JW, Debbaneh M, et al. Diet and psoriasis: Part 2. Celiac disease and role of a gluten-free diet. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2014;71(2):350–8.

[3] Schuppan D, Zimmer KP.  The diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. 2013;110(49):835–46.

[4] Bienvenu F, Anghel SI, Duvanel CB, et al. Early diagnosis of celiac disease in IgA deficient children: contribution of a point-of-care test. BMC Gastroenterology. 2014;14:186.

[5] Singh P, Arora A, Strand TA, et al. Global prevalence of celiac disease: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2018;16(6):823-36.


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