Neurological complications of celiac disease: a rare but continuing problem

Am J Gastroenterol. 1996 Jul;91(7):1430-5.


Neurological complications are a recognized but unusual manifestation of celiac disease. We present here our experiences with four current cases. Age of patients at presentation with neurological signs varied from 7 to 67 yr. In one patient, the neurological disability developed before the diagnosis of celiac disease, whereas, in the other three, it occurred from months to 16 yr after the diagnosis had been established. One patient died of rapidly progressive neuromyopathy. The other three patients had combinations of cerebellar and posterior and lateral column abnormalities. All four patients developed neurological complications despite a strict gluten-free diet. In three of four patients, there was no improvement in duodenal histology on this diet. Treatment with vitamin B12, folic acid, or vitamin D failed to reverse the changes. No other nutritional deficiencies were found. Vitamin E levels were normal in two of three patients. One patient had no response to treatment with immunosuppressive drugs. The mechanisms responsible for these neurological complications are poorly understood, although patients whose duodenal histology fails to improve on a gluten-free diet may be at greater risk. There have been no real advances in the understanding of this condition since the original description nearly 30 yr ago.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Celiac Disease / complications*
  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis
  • Celiac Disease / pathology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Progression
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / pathology