Got Celiac Disease? Watch Your Nerves

Celiac disease patients had raised neuropathy risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Celiac disease patients may need to watch more than just what they eat when it comes to their health. They may need to watch the health of their nerves, too.

A new study found that celiac disease patients were more likely than other patients to have nerve damage.

Patients with celiac disease were 2.5 times more likely to develop neuropathy (nerve damage) than people who did not have celiac disease. People with the disease may be able to prevent nerve damage by following a gluten-free diet — avoiding foods with wheat, barley and rye, the authors of this study said.

“Celiac disease is a potentially treatable condition with a young age of onset," wrote the authors of this study, led by Jonas F. Ludvigsson, MD, of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. "Our findings suggest that screening could be beneficial in patients with neuropathy.”

Celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune digestive disorder that results in damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. It is passed on genetically. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Patients with neuropathy typically have weakness, numbness or pain in their extremities.

For this study, Dr. Ludvigsson and team followed Swedish patients who had verified CD. The 28,232 patients in this study were compared with 139,479 people who did not have CD.

Less than 1 percent of patients with CD developed neuropathy in this study. Although this is a relatively low number of patients, it is a 2.5 times greater risk for neuropathy than in people without CD, Dr. Ludvigsson and team noted.

The cause of the nerve damage in CD patients was unclear, Dr. Ludvigsson said.

“Dietary adherence is currently the only thing we can recommend,” Dr. Ludvigsson told dailyRx News. “I personally believe that it protects against some complications. If one of them is neuropathy, I do not know.”

This study was published online May 11 in JAMA Neurology.

Study author Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl received grant funding from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Ludvigsson received grants from the Swedish Society of Medicine and the Swedish Research Council.

Review Date: 
May 10, 2015
Last Updated:
May 19, 2015