Gluten neuropathy: prevalence of neuropathic pain and the role of gluten-free diet

J Neurol. 2018 Oct;265(10):2231-2236. doi: 10.1007/s00415-018-8978-5. Epub 2018 Jul 21.


Background and aim: Peripheral neuropathy is a common extraintestinal manifestation of gluten sensitivity (gluten neuropathy). We aimed to establish the prevalence of neuropathic pain in patients with otherwise idiopathic PN and gluten sensitivity (positive antigliadin, endomysial, and/or transglutaminase antibodies, with or without enteropathy) and to describe any contributory factors.

Methods: All consecutive patients with gluten neuropathy (GN) attending a specialist gluten/neurology clinic were invited to participate. Pain was assessed via the DN4 questionnaire and the visual analog scale. Overall Neuropathy Limitations Scale was used to assess the severity of neuropathy. The Mental Health Index (MHI-5) was used to measure participants' general mental health status.

Results: In total, 60 patients (76.7% males, mean age 69.9 ± 10.1 years) with GN were recruited. Neuropathic pain was present in 33 patients (55.0%). Comparison between groups of painful and not painful GN did not show significant differences regarding age, gender, neuropathy severity and neuropathy type. Patients with painless GN were more likely to be on a strict gluten-free diet (55.6 versus 21.2%, p = 0.006). Patients with painful GN presented with significantly worse MHI-5 score (75.9 ± 13.8 versus 87.4 ± 8.1, p < 0.001). Multivariate analysis showed that, after adjusting for age, gender and MHI-5, strict gluten-free diet was associated with lowering the odds of peripheral neuropathic pain by 88.7% (95% CI 47.2-97.6%, p = 0.006).

Conclusion: Neuropathic pain is very prevalent in GN and is associated with poorer mental health status. Strict gluten-free diet might be protective as it is associated with a significant reduction of the odds of peripheral neuropathic pain associated to GN.

Keywords: Gluten neuropathy; Gluten-free diet; Neuropathic pain.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet, Gluten-Free*
  • Female
  • Glutens* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Diseases / diet therapy
  • Metabolic Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Neuralgia / diet therapy
  • Neuralgia / epidemiology*
  • Pain / diet therapy
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diet therapy
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence


  • Glutens

Supplementary concepts

  • Neuropathy, Painful