Celiac Disease Symptoms List | BeyondCeliac.org
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Celiac Disease Symptoms List

celiac disease symptoms in children

There are more than 300 symptoms of celiac disease, a serious genetic autoimmune disease.

Symptoms may vary among different people. Due to the wide variety of symptoms that may present themselves, it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose celiac disease.

One person might have diarrhea and abdominal pain, while another person has irritability or depression. Some patients develop symptoms of celiac disease early in life, while others feel healthy far into adulthood. Some people with celiac disease have no signs or symptoms at all.

These differences can make a celiac disease diagnosis extremely difficult to make, resulting in 83% of people with celiac disease undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions.

Left untreated, people with celiac disease can develop further complications such as other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease and certain cancers.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of celiac disease in adults include:

 

Of the signs of celiac disease listed above, anemia, delayed growth and weight loss are signs of malnutrition. Malnutrition is a serious problem for anyone, but particularly for children because they need adequate nutrition to develop properly. Failure to thrive during childhood development is a common indicator of celiac disease.

The symptoms of celiac disease can appear at any age. In children, symptoms can appear as early as 6 months old. Irritability is a common symptom in children.

Other symptoms of celiac disease in children may include:

  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating and gas
  • Fatigue
  • Damaged or discolored tooth enamel
  • Skin rashes (known as dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Delayed growth or puberty
  • Thin bones or frequent fractures
  • Failure to thrive
  • Short stature

By the time these symptoms have appeared, some reversible damage to the child’s small intestine has already occurred. If you think your child may have celiac disease, contact your pediatrician immediately. He/she can order screening tests for celiac disease, or refer your child to a pediatric gastroenterologist.

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.

 

Many people with celiac disease do not have any symptoms at all.

This is known as asymptomatic celiac disease. It is unclear why some people have symptoms while others do not.  However, people without symptoms will still have intestinal damage if they ingest gluten, even if they do not get sick.

celiac disease symptoms

Anemia

Anemia, also referred to iron deficiency anemia, is a decrease of red blood cells due to a lack of iron. Anemia is extremely common, especially in women. There are many potential causes of anemia, such as a lack of iron in the diet, blood loss, or absorption issues. People who have anemia may feel tired, fatigued, or weak.

Learn more about celiac disease and anemia

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Anxiety

Anxiety is considered a reaction to stress. It helps an individual handle a tense and stressful situation. It is the body’s way of helping a person cope and react to stress. However, when anxiety becomes excessive and irrational, it is considered a disorder.

Learn more about celiac disease and anxiety.

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Bloating and Gas:

Bloating can cause abnormal swelling of the abdomen. This results in the feeling of a full or tight abdomen and is often accompanied by discomfort and pain. Gas can also cause bloating. Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity ('gluten sensitivity') are just two of the many causes of these symptoms.

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Constipation:

Constipation is a condition of the digestive system where the stool is hard, difficult and painful to pass. The most common causes of constipation are poor diet and lack of exercise. Frequent constipation can be a symptom of more serious problem or health issue and can be an indicator of a disease or health condition like celiac disease.  

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Delayed Growth:

A slow rate of growth is defined as poor or abnormally slow height or weight gains, more specifically in children. Many children with delayed growth also have delays in mental development. This often occurs in children who have celiac disease as a result of malabsorption, the failure to properly absorb necessary nutrition and provide the body with its needed nutrients for development.

Learn more about celiac disease in children.

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Depression:

Depression refers to a feeling of being sad, helpless and hopeless. Some symptoms of depression are anxious or empty moods, feeling hopeless, feelings of guilt, feelings of worthlessness and a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. Health conditions such as celiac disease are among the biological influences that can cause depression.

Learn more about celiac disease and depression.

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Diarrhea:

Diarrhea is the condition of having frequent loose or liquid bowel movements. This may be accompanied by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea or an urgent need to use the bathroom. Chronic diarrhea may be a symptom of a chronic disease. For someone with celiac disease, diarrhea is often caused by malabsorption, the inability to absorb nutrients from food.

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Discolored Teeth:

Discolored teeth can be a symptom of celiac disease among other possible health issues. This symptom manifests as white, yellow or brown spots on the front and back teeth (incisors and molars). Tooth defects resulting from celiac disease are permanent and do not improve once a diagnosed person adopts a gluten-free diet.

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Fatigue/Tiredness

Fatigue (tiredness) is a state of physical or mental weariness. Tiredness can be both a physical and mental symptom. Chronic tiredness can be a symptom of many different diseases or conditions, including autoimmune conditions such as celiac disease.

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Headaches:

Headaches are a symptom of a number of different conditions of the head and sometimes neck. It is among the most common pain complaints of people living with undiagnosed celiac disease. Like other types of pain, headaches can serve as warning signals of more serious disorders. If headaches occur three or more times a month, you should seek a doctor or medical professional for assistance immediately.

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Infertility:

Infertility primarily refers to an inability to contribute to conception. It can also refer to a woman who is unable to carry a pregnancy to full term. There are many biological causes of infertility. Celiac disease can result in infertility, as well as serious complications during pregnancy. 

Learn more about celiac disease and fertility.

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Irritability:

Irritability can also be described as crankiness and is defined as excessive feelings of annoyance or frustration. Irritability is one of the most common symptoms in children.

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Itchy Skin Rash:

Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is the skin manifestation of celiac disease. It is characterized by intensely itchy, chronic rashes that usually can be found primarily on elbows, knees, back, buttocks and back of neck. 

Learn more about celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis (DH).

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Joint Pain:

Joint pain can be caused by many types of injuries or conditions. It can range from mild or serious discomfort to chronic pain that can decrease a person’s range of motion in a joint or limb. 

Read about celiac disease and arthritis​. 

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Pale Mouth Sores:

Pale mouth sores (commonly referred to as "canker sores") are caused by a break in the skin on the lips or surrounding the mouth. Various types of sores can appear anywhere within the mouth, including the inner cheeks, gums, tongue, lips or palate. They can have many causes. Mouth sores can be a sign of a more serious medical condition, including celiac disease. 

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Poor Weight Gain:

Poor weight gain is the inability to gain weight at a normal rate. Malnutrition, commonly seen in people with celiac disease, is one of the sources of this symptom. Undiagnosed celiac disease could explain poor weight gain in people who are maintaining a well-balanced diet.

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Thin Bones:

Thin bones are the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time. This occurs when enough new bone is not formed, when too much old bone is reabsorbed by the body or both. There are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Symptoms occurring late in the disease include bone pain or tenderness, fractures with little or no trauma, unexplained loss of height, lower back pain, neck pain and stooped posture. 

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Tingling/Numbness:

Tingling or numbness are abnormal sensations that can occur anywhere in your body. It is a sensation of tingling, prickling, or numbness of a person's skin with no apparent long-term physical effect. It can also be described as "pins and needles" or referred to as a limb being "asleep."

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DO YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE CELIAC DISEASE?

Complete our Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist today to find out if you could have celiac disease and how to talk to your doctor about getting tested.