Objectives: To determine the occurrence of celiac disease in a population of ataxic patients without definite diagnosis and to characterise distinctive features which may help to differentiate cerebellar ataxia with and without celiac disease.
Methods: Twenty four ataxic patients without definite diagnosis (group A) and 23 ataxic patients with definite diagnosis (group B) were screened for antigliadin (AGAs) and antiendomysium antibodies (EMAs). Patients with a positive AGA or EMA test underwent endoscopic biopsy of the duodenal mucosa.
Results: There was an increased prevalence of celiac disease in group A (3/24) compared with group B (0/23). None of the celiac patients presented gastrointestinal symptoms or malabsorption signs. None of the ataxic patients with celiac disease had early onset ataxia.
Conclusions: Celiac disease is associated with ataxic syndromes without definite diagnosis, suggesting that it plays a part in the pathogenesis of some ataxic syndromes. The absence of distinctive neurological features in ataxic patients with celiac disease suggests that a search should be made for celiac disease markers in all ataxic patients without definite diagnosis.