Mobile menu
Home » What is Celiac Disease? » Celiac Disease Symptoms

Celiac Disease Symptoms

Celiac disease, a serious genetic autoimmune disorder, has over 250 known symptoms.

The symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly from person to person, which can make it challenging to diagnose. One individual may experience diarrhea and abdominal pain, while another may have feelings of irritability or depression. Some people show signs of the disease early in life, while others remain symptom-free well into adulthood. In certain cases, individuals with celiac disease may not exhibit any noticeable symptoms.

These variations in symptoms contribute to the difficulty of accurately diagnosing celiac disease, leading to an alarming statistic: approximately 83% of individuals with the condition are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other medical conditions.

Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional complications, including other autoimmune disorders, osteoporosis, infertility, and certain types of cancer.

For a full list of the 281 associated symptoms, see University Health News.

Common Signs & Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Some of the most common symptoms of celiac disease include the following:

  • Anemia – a decrease of red blood cells due to a lack of iron. It can lead to weakness, tiredness, and susceptibility to bruising. It is one of the most common symptoms of celiac disease. In some patients, it’s severe enough to require iron transfusions, although it should resolve after going on the gluten-free diet. 
  • Anxiety – the body’s way of helping us cope and react to stress. It’s more than being worried: anxiety is intense, persistent, and usually excessive for everyday situations like speaking to peers or driving. 
  • Arthritis and Joint Pain – inflammation, pain and stiffness in the joints.
  • Brain Fog – brain fog is being excessively “spaced out.” A person may be unable to concentrate no matter how hard they try, or be unable to remember simple things. Some may refer to it as mental fatigue, forgetfulness, grogginess, being detached, or mental confusion.
  • Bloating, Constipation, Diarrhea, Gas, etc. – celiac disease is associated with a number of digestive symptoms, including both diarrhea and constipation. 
  • Depression – according to various studies, there is a possible link between brain functions and malabsorption. Depression is more than feeling down; it’s a persistent loss of interest in the things you enjoy or an “inability” to feel happy.
  • Discolored Teeth – white, yellow or brown spots on teeth. In children, untreated celiac disease may cause weak enamel or delayed eruption of teeth. 
  • Fatigue – chronic tiredness can be a symptom of autoimmune conditions such as celiac disease. Fatigue is marked by persistent exhaustion; patients may feel tired upon waking up even after getting enough sleep.
  • Headaches or Migraines – many people with celiac disease report having migraine attacks after consuming gluten.
  • Infertility – In women, celiac disease can be the cause of infertility.
  • Irritability – Adults may become impatient or grumpy, and children may have outbursts of anger or temper tantrums.
  • Itchy Skin Rash (Dermatitis Herpetiformis) – dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is a severe, chronic skin rash associated with celiac disease. It is intensely itchy, and only resolves on the gluten-free diet, though certain medications may ease the pain.
  • Mouth Sores – mouth sores, also known as mouth ulcers or canker sores, can be a sign of celiac disease.
  • Osteopenia & Osteoporosis – thin bones that are prone to fracturing and breaking can be a symptom of celiac disease. 
  • Tingling/Numbness/Neuropathy – peripheral neuropathy is the medical term for tingling or numbness in limbs, fingers and feet. 
  • Vomiting – Nausea and involuntary vomiting after eating can indicate celiac disease.

Symptoms, Ages & Demographics

Think you or your child may have celiac disease? Complete our Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist and share the results with your doctor and ask them about getting tested.

Different Symptoms & Different Types of Celiac Disease

Classical Celiac Disease

Classical celiac disease is characterized by malabsorption, such as diarrhea, steatorrhea, weight loss, or growth failure. This form of the disease includes cases where patients experience both diarrhea and weight loss, as well as those who present with weight loss and anemia. These are the symptoms that were traditionally associated with celiac disease, but it’s becoming less common than non-classical celiac disease. Doctors now recognize constipation and weight gain as symptoms of celiac disease, too.

Non-Classic Celiac Disease

Non-classical celiac disease manifests without the traditionally-accepted signs and symptoms. In these instances, patients do not suffer from malabsorption, but may have symptoms like constipation and brain fog. Patients may not present with any of the traditional GI symptoms, but rather with neurological issues, such as depression, migraines or irritability, or may only have uncommon symptoms such as poor teeth quality or night blindness.

Asymptomatic Celiac Disease

Some patients with celiac disease have no symptoms at all. This is called “asymptomatic” or “silent celiac disease.” This occurs when individuals with celiac disease do not display any external symptoms, but still have internal damage to the small intestine or blood results indicating celiac disease.

It’s unclear why some patients do not experience outward symptoms. However, it’s important to note that even individuals with asymptomatic celiac disease will still sustain intestinal damage if they consume gluten, despite not feeling unwell. They should stick to a strict gluten-free diet—no cheat days.

Potential Celiac Disease

Potential celiac disease is characterized by a positive blood test result, but a normal or almost normal endoscopy. Patients are usually asked to return in a year or two to repeat the testing.

Non-Responsive Celiac Disease

Non-responsive celiac disease is defined as continuing to have persistent symptoms, elevated antibodies or small intestinal damage even after following a strict gluten-free diet for six to 12 months. Learn more about non-responsive celiac disease.

Refractory Celiac Disease

Refractory celiac disease is marked by a lack of response to a strict gluten-free diet after six to 12 months, with symptoms, intestinal damage and an abnormal population of white blood cells in the gut.

These cells, called abnormal intraepithelial lymphocytes, are unique immune cells found in the lining of the small intestine. Their presence is the distinguishing characteristic of refractory celiac disease because they can be the beginning of cancer. Learn more about refractory celiac disease.

Celiac Disease Symptoms FAQ

What are the early warning signs of celiac disease?

Celiac disease symptoms can develop gradually or all at once; because of this and the fact that there are so many symptoms associated with CD, there are no generally agreed upon “warning signs.” However, celiac disease tends to run in families, so all first-degree relatives of someone with celiac disease should also be tested for CD. 

Which diseases have similar symptoms to celiac disease?

Celiac disease is sometimes called a “clinical chameleon” because so many of its symptoms overlap with other conditions. A few of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

What is a celiac flare up like?

If an individual with celiac disease eats gluten and has symptoms, many in the community call it a “glutening.” A glutening looks different for each patient: some will spend the next 12 hours heaving over the toilet, whereas others may feel extra-sleepy or have a debilitating headache. Some have an itchy rash called dermatitis herpetiformis, whereas others may experience depression or irritability. It really depends on the individual!

Where is celiac pain located?

People with celiac disease may have pain in the abdomen, joints or bones.

Can you suddenly develop celiac disease?

Yes, you can develop celiac disease at any time in life.

How do I know if I have celiac disease?

There’s only one way to find out—get tested!

Testing starts will a simple and easy blood test. If that’s positive, patients usually go on to get an upper endoscopy. It’s important to note that you must be eating gluten for the tests to be accurate. Learn more about the testing process.

Because the symptoms vary so widely, and because some patients have no symptoms at all, patients should not be barred from testing based on symptoms or lack thereof. If your doctor doesn’t want to test you, consider sending them to this page!

Think you may have celiac disease?

Symptoms Checklist