Neurological disorders

Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN
Q: What are the neurological disorders that may accompany celiac disease?

Answer


Neurological disorders are common among people with celiac disease (CD). They can be present at time of diagnosis or can be a complication of celiac disease over time. Neurological disorders are likely due to nutrient deficiencies as a result of malabsorption and inflammation in celiac disease. Some neurological disorders may resolve or improve with a gluten-free diet, others will not (1).

These neurological disorders are the more common ones associated with CD (1, 2):

  • Neuropathy (tingling in extremities)

  • Ataxia (affects motor control and coordination)

  • Dementia/impaired cognitive function

  • Seizure disorders

  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

It is estimated that about 50% of people with celiac disease may develop peripheral neuropathy (2). Further, in a study of patients with celiac disease the incidence of RLS was 35% with a prevalence of about 25%, compared to just 10% in the general population (3).

Neurological disorders/symptoms more common in children with celiac disease (4):

  • Hypotonia (low muscle tone)

  • Developmental delay

  • Learning disorders

  • ADHD

  • Headache

  • Ataxia (affects motor control and coordination)

Talk to your doctor if you suspect a neurological disorder and see your doctor regularly to monitor your celiac disease and any associated conditions.

Read more about neurological conditions associated with celiac disease:

Neuropathy: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352067

Ataxia: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ataxia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355652

Dementia: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352013

Seizure disorders: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seizure/symptoms-causes/syc-20365711

RLS: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/restless-legs-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20377168

ADHD: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adhd/symptoms-causes/syc-20350889

Headache: https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/headache/basics/definition/sym-20050800

References:

  1. Freeman HJ. Neurologicaldisorders in adult celiac disease. Can J Gastroenterol. 2008;22(11):909–911. doi:10.1155/2008/824631
  2. Cicarelli G, Della Rocca G, Amboni M, Ciacci C, Mazzacca G, Filla A, Barone P Clinical and neurologicalabnormalities in adult celiac disease. Neurol Sci. 2003 Dec;24(5):311-7. PubMed PMID: 14716525.
  3. Weinstock LB, Walters AS, Mullin GE, Duntley SP. Celiac disease is associated with restless legs syndrome. Dig Dis Sci. 2010 Jun;55(6):1667-73. doi: 10.1007/s10620-009-0943-9. PubMed PMID: 19731029.
  4. Zelnik N, Pacht A, Obeid R, Lerner A. Range of neurologic disorders in patients with celiac disease. Pediatrics. 2004 Jun;113(6):1672-6. PubMed PMID: 15173490.

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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