Coeliac disease in patients with cerebellar ataxia of unknown origin

Ann Med. 2001 Sep;33(6):445-9. doi: 10.3109/07853890108995958.


Background: Neurological symptoms of unknown origin are common in coeliac disease (CD). Evidence suggests that CD may also contribute to the development of idiopathic late-onset ataxia.

Aim: To evaluate the frequency of CD in patients with cerebellar ataxia of unknown origin.

Methods: The medical files of adult patients with the diagnosis of cerebellar ataxia of unknown origin (n=44) were evaluated. Serum gliadin, endomysial, and serum tissue transglutaminase antibodies were used as screening tests for CD. Subjects with positive results were referred to small-bowel biopsy.

Results: The frequency of CD was as high as 9.1% in all patients. A thorough interview and review of the patient files indicated alcohol abuse as a cause for cerebellar disease in almost half (45.5%) of our patients. When the cases with alcohol abuse were omitted, the calculated frequency of CD was 16.7% in patients with ataxia of unknown origin.

Conclusion: CD is a common association with cerebellar disease and the disease should be considered in all patients with ataxia of unknown origin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Antibodies / analysis
  • Celiac Disease / complications*
  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / complications*
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / etiology
  • Female
  • Gliadin / immunology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Antibodies
  • Gliadin