Celiac Disease Symptoms

Celiac disease is confounding in a number of ways. It can occur in childhood, in early adulthood or late in life. It can be triggered by the trauma associated with major events such as surgery, pregnancy, childbirth or even severe emotional stress.

Most disturbing is the fact that while celiac disease (gluten intolerance) often produces regular, detectable symptoms, it can also be almost entirely asymptomatic. It is usually only detectable through secondary signs and symptoms that result from malabsorption.

Primary Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Celiac disease affects individuals differently. However, some common gastrointestinal symptoms exist that can suggest the presence of celiac disease. While these signs and symptoms don’t appear in all those who suffer from celiac disease, they’re among the most common symptoms of the disease:

  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • bloating
  • weight loss
  • pale (grayish) and foul-smelling stool
  • irritability
  • excessive flatulence.

Secondary Symptoms of Celiac Disease

In many cases, the symptoms of celiac disease seem to mimic symptoms usually associated with gastrointestinal illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and certain parasitic infections.

Here are a few of the secondary symptoms of celiac disease. While not normally associated with celiac disease, in numerous cases, they have proved to be accurate indicators that the disease is indeed present:

  • anemia
  • joint pain
  • osteoporosis
  • irregular menstrual cycles
  • tooth discoloration
  • skin rash
  • mouth sores
  • dental and bone disorders
  • depression
  • neuropathy (tingling in the legs and feet).

Other Celiac Causes

Celiac disease can be especially harmful to children. Along with primary and secondary symptoms, celiac disease and gluten intolerance is potentially fatal to children because the body can’t absorb essential nutrients and vitamins. Parents who notice any of the above symptoms or failure to thrive in their child should immediately consult their pediatrician.

A Word About Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a blistering skin disease that causes severe rash and discomfort on the elbows, the knees and the buttocks. It has been known to cause significant internal damage and it invariably indicates celiac disease. As with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet and medication can help to treat this painful condition.

While doctors are not entirely sure about the connection between the two, a correlation has been established between dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) and celiac disease.


Beers, M.H.