Typical symptoms of so-called celiac disease, i.e. gluten intolerance, are flatulence, constipation and abdominal pain.
A common but lesser known symptom is an itchy rash with small blisters. If celiac disease is left untreated, other symptoms such as unexplained weight loss or anemia can occur.
Gluten is a protein found in certain grains, most notably wheat, barley and rye. In people with gluten intolerance, the protein cannot be processed in the duodenum and disturbs the mucous membrane there, causing symptoms.
Many people are unaware that they have celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which eating gluten damages the small intestine. That may be because there are over 200 known symptoms of the disease. That means everyone is affected differently. Also, not all signs and symptoms may appear. The following 10 signs of celiac disease are by no means a definitive list. Nonetheless, they are a good first guide if you suspect you may have the disease.
1. Celiac Rash
About 17% of people with celiac disease develop “dermatitis herpetiformes,” an itchy rash that can appear as small blisters on the knees, elbows, lower back, or buttocks. In people with celiac disease, “dermatitis herpetiformes” usually appears within a month of eating gluten. That’s according to medical advisor to cleaning guide Oh So Spotless, Lizz Kinyua. Many people develop a celiac rash without any digestive symptoms. This makes the rash an important early sign of the disease.
Some of the first signs of celiac disease are digestive problems such as bloating. Although bloating can also be caused by changes in diet, such as increased fiber intake, you should see your doctor if bloating is persistent or painful.
One of the most common symptoms is loose and watery diarrhea. a study reported that about 77% of patients are affected. Celiac sufferers are most likely to suffer from diarrhea, which is a result of gluten-induced gut inflammation, says Dr. Patrick Griffin, gastroenterology specialist and chief medical officer of the biopharmaceutical company 9 Meters Biopharma.
4. Abdominal pain
Another sign of celiac disease is a dull, mild abdominal pain after eating. Fortunately, a gluten-free diet can effectively improve this symptom. A study from 2016 found that untreated celiac disease patients had significantly more abdominal pain than the patients who followed a gluten-free diet.
5. Iron deficiency anemia
If celiac disease is not treated, the lining of the small intestine can be damaged. This can mean that nutrients such as iron can no longer be properly absorbed, says Kinuya. This can lead to iron deficiency, which can lead to anemia. Anemia is a condition in which the red blood cell count is very low. Symptoms include extreme tiredness, weakness, chest pain, headache, and dizziness. A study from 2013 found that 23% of celiac patients were anemic.
6. Peripheral neuropathy
About 10% of people with celiac disease also have a neurological condition, such as “peripheral neuropathy,” which results from an inability to absorb vitamin B12, says Kinuya. The consequences of “peripheral neuropathy” are weakness, pain or a burning/tingling sensation in the hands and feet. However, this disease is more likely to occur in the later stages of untreated celiac disease.
7. Unexplained weight loss
Celiac disease can also lead to weight loss even if there are no changes in diet or appetite. That’s because the gut can’t absorb any more nutrients, Griffin says.