There is a range of medical conditions associated with coeliac disease, and while it is important to keep in mind that many will not develop these conditions, awareness that these associations exist is essential to encourage screening, diagnosis and proper treatment.
The reasons other medical conditions complicate coeliac disease are;
- Genetics - the inherited genes that make a person susceptible to coeliac disease also make them susceptible to a range of other immune conditions. Many people find that several autoimmune diseases are present in their immediate or extended family. Therefore, it is important to inform your doctor of the presence of other autoimmune conditions in yourself or your family. Screening should occur even if there are no obvious symptoms of coeliac disease. There is some evidence that early diagnosis and treatment of coeliac disease reduces the risk of other autoimmune disease developing.
- Chronic inflammation - the chronic inflammation caused by coeliac disease mainly affects the small bowel lining, but can also present in a variety of other organs in the body such as the skin, joints, bones, liver, pancreas, thyroid gland, nervous system, and reproductive tract.
- Small bowel damage - Chronic inflammation in the lining of the small bowel can result in poor absorption of nutrients – vitamins and minerals, e.g. calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, leading to problems such as anaemia and vitamin deficiencies.
Conditions associated with coeliac disease
Coeliac disease can affect most systems in the body. The following medical conditions occur at higher frequency in people with coeliac disease. These complications are thought to result from the abnormal immune response caused by gluten. You should speak to your doctor if you have any concerns or questions about these conditions for which there are specific treatments. Early diagnosis and treatment of coeliac disease can greatly reduce the risk of most of these problems ever occurring.
Glands (Endocrine system)
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
- Type 1 diabetes
- Addison’s disease (insufficient adrenal hormones)
- Sjogren’s syndrome (dry mouth and eyes)
- Amenorrhoea (absent menstrual periods)
- Polyarthritis (arthritis in 5 or more joints) and rheumatoid arthritis (inflammation of joints and other organs)
- Lupus (body attacks healthy tissue and organs)
- Sarcoidosis (inflamed nodules usually in lungs or lymph nodes)
- Anaemia (iron or B12 deficiency)
- Chronic thrombocytopaenic purpura (low platelets)
- Lactose intolerance
- Pernicious anaemia (inability to absorb B12)
- Pancreatic insufficiency (inability to properly digest food)
- Microscopic colitis (watery diarrhoea)
- Gastrointestinal cancers
- Premature osteopaenia (low bone mineral density) and osteoporosis
- Low trauma fracture
- Rickets or osteomalacia (caused by low vitamin D)
- Abnormal liver function tests
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Primary biliary cirrhosis (blocked bile ducts)
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis (scarring of bile ducts)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Neuropathy (breakdown of the nervous system)
Skin and mouth
- Dermatitis herpetiformis (chronic, intensely itchy skin rash)
- Alopecia (hair loss)
- Dental enamel defects
- Mouth ulcers
- Recurrent miscarriage
- Pneumococcal pneumonia (pneumonia of upper respiratory tract)
- Down’s syndrome
- Turner’s syndrome (missing or abnormal X chromosome in women)
For further information on some of the more common associated conditions listed above, download our factsheet or call our helpline on 1300 458 836.
Our Associated Conditions brochure is also available for download or to obtain a printed copy from one of our offices, please call 1300 458 836.