Celiac Sprue Symptoms

Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. Specifically, tiny fingerlike protrusions, called villi, on the lining of the small intestine are lost. Nutrients from food are absorbed into the bloodstream through these villi. Without villi, a person becomes malnourished--regardless of the quantity of food eaten.

Celiac disease affects people differently. Some people develop symptoms as children, others as adults. Symptoms may or may not occur in the digestive system. For example, one person might have diarrhea and abdominal pain, while another person has irritability or depression. In fact, irritability is one of the most common symptoms in children.

Symptoms of celiac disease may include one or more of the following:

  • recurring abdominal bloating and pain
  • chronic diarrhea
  • weight loss
  • pale, foul-smelling stool
  • unexplained anemia (low count of red blood cells)
  • gas
  • bone pain
  • behavior changes
  • muscle cramps
  • fatigue
  • delayed growth
  • failure to thrive in infants
  • pain in the joints
  • seizures
  • tingling numbness in the legs (from nerve damage)
  • pale sores inside the mouth, called aphthus ulcers
  • painful skin rash, called dermatitis herpetiformis
  • tooth discoloration or loss of enamel
  • missed menstrual periods (often because of excessive weight loss)

For more, please visit the following MedicineNet.com areas:

Portions of the above information has been provided with the kind permission of the National Digestive Diseases Clearinghouse, National Institute of Health (www.niddk.nih.gov)


Last Editorial Review: 9/30/2002




STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!