Celiac Disease Symptoms

Celiac disease has numerous symptoms. According to some experts, there are about 300 possible symptoms of the disease.

Different people will experience the disease in different ways, because the symptoms vary greatly from one person to the next.

Often, symptoms of celiac disease are confused with other disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and lactose intolerance.

Symptoms for Children

Infants and children with celiac disease tend to have digestive problems. Common symptoms for infants and children include:

Children may also show signs of malnourishment. That's because the disease prevents the body from absorbing essential nutrients. The stomach may expand, while the thighs become thin and the buttocks flat.

For teens with celiac disease, symptoms may not occur until they are triggered by something stressful, such as:

  • Leaving home for college
  • Suffering an injury or illness
  • Pregnancy

Common symptoms for teenagers include:

Symptoms for Adults

In adults with celiac disease, the inability of the body to absorb a sufficient amount of calcium to keep bones strong often leads to osteoporosis.

Anemia, or low red blood cell count from iron deficiency, is another common problem caused by celiac disease.

Infertility and miscarriages are also potential complications of the disease.

Adults often have fewer gastrointestinal symptoms of celiac disease. Diarrhea, for example, affects only one-third of adults with the disease.

Common symptoms for adults include:

Factors Influencing Symptoms

Several factors may influence the symptoms that an individual patient has, including:

  • How long the patient was breastfed
  • Age of patient when gluten was introduced to the diet
  • How much damage the disease has done to the intestine before it was diagnosed


Another factor is how much gluten the patient's diet contained. Gluten is a type of protein. Foods that contain gluten have ingredients that include:

  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Barley

Some patients will not have any symptoms of the disease, because their intestine is still able to absorb a sufficient amount of nutrients to prevent them.

Nevertheless, the disease will still take its toll. It should be treated as early as possible to avoid possible long-term effects of the disease, such as:

  • Malnutrition
  • Liver diseases
  • Cancers of the intestine (in rare cases)

The importance of recognizing symptoms early -- and beginning a gluten-free diet -- is hard to overstate.

In children and teens, the disease can stunt growth and delay or shorten puberty. Hair loss and dental problems may also occur among young people who continue to eat gluten.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on November 03, 2014



University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center: "Learn About the Symptoms of Celiac Disease."

Celiac Sprue Association: "Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease."

National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases: "Celiac Disease."

Nemours: "Celiac Disease."

Cleveland Clinic: "Celiac Disease."

GastroKids: "Celiac Disease."

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