Gluten-related disorders: gluten ataxia

Dig Dis. 2015;33(2):264-268. doi: 10.1159/000369509. Epub 2015 Apr 22.


The term gluten-related disorders (GRD) refers to a spectrum of diverse clinical manifestations triggered by the ingestion of gluten in genetically susceptible individuals. They include both intestinal and extraintestinal manifestations. Gluten ataxia (GA) is one of the commonest neurological manifestations of GRD. It was originally defined as otherwise idiopathic sporadic ataxia in the presence of circulating antigliadin antibodies of IgA and/or IgG type. Newer more specific serological markers have been identified but are not as yet readily available. GA has a prevalence of 15% amongst all ataxias and 40% of all idiopathic sporadic ataxias. It usually presents with gait and lower limb ataxia. It is of insidious onset with a mean age at onset of 53 years. Up to 40% of patients have evidence of enteropathy on duodenal biopsy. Gastrointestinal symptoms are seldom prominent and are not a reliable indicator for the presence of enteropathy. Furthermore, the presence of enteropathy does not influence the response to a gluten-free diet. Most patients will stabilise or improve with strict adherence to gluten-free diet depending on the duration of the ataxia prior to the treatment. Up to 60% of patients with GA have evidence of cerebellar atrophy on MR imaging, but all patients have spectroscopic abnormalities primarily affecting the vermis. Recent evidence suggests that patients with newly diagnosed coeliac disease presenting to the gastroenterologists have abnormal MR spectroscopy at presentation associated with clinical evidence of subtle cerebellar dysfunction. The advantage of early diagnosis and treatment (mean age 42 years in patients presenting with gastrointestinal symptoms vs. 53 years in patients presenting with ataxia) may protect the first group from the development and/or progression of neurological dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ataxia / epidemiology
  • Ataxia / etiology*
  • Ataxia / physiopathology
  • Ataxia / therapy
  • Glutens / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging


  • Glutens