Celiac Disease Complications
If Reference celiac disease Opens New Window is left untreated, complications may develop. Some of these problems can occur because of the small intestine's inability to digest food and absorb nutrients properly. Other problems may develop from damage to the intestinal lining that may or may not cause noticeable symptoms.
Teens and adults often have milder symptoms, but they may still have complications. Some complications in teens and adults are different from those in children.
Complications in children
Children who have untreated celiac disease may develop complications such as:
- Weight loss and failure to grow, also known as Reference failure to thrive. A child may be short for his or her age and have small, undeveloped muscles of the buttocks, arms, and legs. A child's belly may appear swollen. Even if a child eats well, his or her weight may be below normal.
- Reference Rickets Opens New Window or Reference osteoporosis Opens New Window. These conditions may develop because the body does not absorb enough calcium and vitamin D.
- Reference Iron deficiency anemia Opens New Window. Children who have celiac disease are at increased risk for developing iron deficiency anemia because their intestines are not able to absorb enough iron.
- Loss of Reference tooth enamel Opens New Window. Enamel may not form normally on the teeth, leaving them soft and yellow.
- Reference Folic acid deficiency anemia Opens New Window. This condition may develop if the body absorbs too little of the B vitamin folic acid.
- Reference Intussusception Opens New Window. Celiac disease may damage the intestines, causing this condition to occur.
- Reference Rectal prolapse Opens New Window. This condition of the large intestine may develop with severe celiac disease.
Complications in teens
Teens who have untreated celiac disease can have many of the same problems as those in younger children. In addition, they may have:
- Delays in growth. Teens may be short and underweight for their age.
- Delay of Reference puberty Opens New Window. Menstrual periods may start later than normal in girls. Facial hair growth and voice changes may occur late in boys.
It is sometimes hard for teens to consistently follow a gluten-free diet. Make sure your teen knows that the more he or she doesn't follow the diet, the more likely the above complications are to develop.
Complications in adults
Adults who have celiac disease may develop complications such as:
- Refractory sprue. When symptoms don't get better or come back in spite of a gluten-free diet, this is called refractory sprue.
- Blockage or sores (ulcerations) in the Reference small intestine Opens New Window.
- Reference Iron deficiency anemia Opens New Window and Reference folic acid deficiency anemia Opens New Window.
- Reference Osteoporosis Opens New Window.
- Reference Infertility Opens New Window, recurrent Reference miscarriages Opens New Window, and absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea).
- Reference Anxiety Opens New Window and Reference depression Opens New Window.
- Reference Lymphoma Opens New Window of the intestine and possibly cancer of the esophagus.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference May 29, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Jerry S. Trier, MD - Gastroenterology