Extraintestinal Manifestations of Celiac Disease: Effectiveness of the Gluten-Free Diet

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2017 Jul;65(1):75-79. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000001420.


Objective: The aim of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the gluten-free diet (GFD) on extraintestinal symptoms in pediatric and adult celiac populations at the University of Chicago.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of the University of Chicago Celiac Center clinic charts from January 2002 to October 2014. Demographics, serologic testing, intestinal biopsies, and extraintestinal symptoms at presentation, 12, 24, and >24 months were recorded. Extraintestinal symptoms included abnormal liver enzymes, arthralgia/arthritis, dermatitis herpetiformis, alopecia, fatigue, headache, anemia, stomatitis, myalgias, psychiatric disorders, rashes, seizures, neuropathy, short stature, delayed puberty, osteoporosis, and infertility.

Results: A total of 737 patients with biopsy-confirmed celiac disease or skin biopsy-confirmed dermatitis herpetiformis were included. Patients lost to follow-up, or with insufficient data were excluded leaving 328 patients (157 pediatrics younger than 18 years). For pediatrics, the female to male ratio was 2:1 and the mean age at diagnosis was 8.9 years. For adults, 4:1 and 40.6 years old. Extraintestinal symptom rates were similar in children (60%) and adults (62%). Short stature (33%), fatigue (28%), and headache (20%) were most common in children. Iron deficiency anemia (48%), fatigue (37%), and headache/psychiatric disorders (24%) were common in adults. Children had faster/higher rates of symptom resolution compared with adults. Twenty-eight percent of children with unresolved short stature on a GFD were found to have other comorbidities.

Conclusions: Children and adults with celiac disease have similar rates of extraintestinal manifestations. In children short stature, fatigue, and headache were most common, whereas anemia, fatigue, and headache/psychiatric disorders were most common in adults. Children on a strict GFD showed faster and higher rates of symptom resolution as compared to adults. Unresponsive children with short stature must be assessed for comorbidities.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Celiac Disease / complications*
  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet, Gluten-Free*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult