The symptoms of coeliac disease vary considerably. Some people suffer severe symptoms, while others are symptom free. Further investigation for coeliac disease should occur if one or more high risk features are present. These include:
- Iron Deficiency Anaemia and/or other Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies
- Gastrointestinal Symptoms e.g. diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, steatorrhea
- Autoimmune Disease (autoimmune conditions commonly occur together)
- Weight Loss (although some people may gain weight)
- A family history of coeliac disease
Other symptoms may also include
- Fatigue, weakness and lethargy
- Easy bruising of the skin
- Recurrent mouth ulcers and/or swelling of mouth or tongue
- Skin rashes such as dermatitis herpetiformis
- Altered mental alertness and irritability
- Bone and joint pains
- Failure to thrive in children
- Delayed growth or delayed puberty in children
Many people with coeliac disease are ‘asymptomatic’, that is they have no obvious symptoms at all.
Untreated coeliac disease can lead to chronic poor health, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage, depression, liver disease, poor dentition, an increased risk of autoimmune disease and some forms of cancer such as lymphoma. Importantly, appropriate treatment with a strict gluten free diet leads to small bowel healing, resolution of symptoms, and a reduction in the long-term risk of these complications.
Although symptoms can vary considerably in coeliac disease, everybody with the condition is at risk of complications if they do not adhere strictly to treatment with a gluten free diet. Since bowel damage can occur in coeliac disease even when symptoms are absent, everybody with coeliac disease, irrespective of the severity of their symptoms, needs to adhere strictly to a gluten free diet.