Learn about the hundreds of celiac disease symptoms

Subtle and variable symptoms

People with celiac disease may present with various gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, malabsorption, and weight loss. However, gastrointestinal symptoms are not universal. Celiac disease is associated with approximately 300 symptoms, many of them subtle and seemingly unrelated.

In addition, a significant percentage of people with celiac disease have no symptoms at all. In those cases, it is thought that possibly the undamaged part of their small intestine is able to absorb sufficient nutrients to prevent symptoms. However, people with and without symptoms are at the same risk for many of the complications associated with celiac disease.

Common symptom presentation

Symptoms may or may not occur in the digestive system. For example, one patient may present with diarrhea and abdominal pain, while another patient experiences infertility or anemia. Some patients develop celiac disease as children, others as adults. Oral, dermatological, and neurological manifestations of celiac disease may be present.

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

  • Recurring abdominal bloating and pain
  • Chronic or recurrent diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea or emesis
  • Liver and biliary tract disorders (increased serum transaminases,
    primary sclerosing cholangitis)
  • Weight loss
  • Pale, foul-smelling stool
  • Iron-deficiency anemia unresponsive to iron therapy
  • Fatigue
  • Failure to thrive or short stature
  • Delayed puberty
  • Arthralgia
  • Tingling numbness in the legs
  • Pale sores inside the mouth
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Abnormal dentition (tooth discoloration, loss of enamel)
  • Unexplained infertility or recurrent miscarriage
  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Psychiatric disorders (anxiety or depression)

Access a list of about 300 symptoms of celiac disease.

Age-related presentation

Children tend to exhibit the more classic signs of celiac disease, including failure to thrive, chronic diarrhea or constipation, recurring abdominal bloating and pain, fatigue, and irritability.

In adults, clinical presentation is variable, ranging from vague abdominal complaints to anemia. These limited symptoms could delay diagnosis.

Unlike children, adults tend to present with symptoms that are not entirely gastrointestinal in nature. The most common sign of celiac disease in adults is iron-deficiency anemia unresponsive to iron therapy. Recent research demonstrates that only a third of adult patients diagnosed with celiac disease experience diarrhea.

For more information

Learn more about the range of symptoms in the Symptoms of Celiac Disease Factsheet.

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