Complications With Celiac Disease
Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to several complications:
* Malnutrition. Untreated celiac disease can lead to malabsorption, which in turn can lead to malnutrition. This occurs in spite of what appears to be an adequate diet. Because vital nutrients are lost in the stool rather than absorbed in the bloodstream, malabsorption can cause a deficiency in vitamins and minerals, such as B-12, D, folate and iron, resulting in anemia and weight loss. Malnutrition can cause stunted growth in children and delay their development. * Loss of calcium and bone density. With continued loss of fat in the stool, calcium and vitamin D may be lost in excessive amounts. This may result in a bone disorder called osteomalacia, a softening of the bone also known as rickets in children, and loss of bone density (osteoporosis), a condition that leaves your bones fragile and prone to fracture. In addition, lack of calcium absorption can lead to a certain type of kidney stone (oxalate stone).
* Lactose intolerance. Because of damage to your small intestine from gluten, foods that don't contain gluten also may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. Some people with celiac disease aren't able to tolerate milk sugar (lactose) found in dairy products, a condition called lactose intolerance. If this is the case, you need to limit food and beverages containing lactose as well as those containing gluten. Once your intestine has healed, you may be able to tolerate dairy products again. However, some people may continue to experience lactose intolerance despite successful management of celiac disease. * Cancer. People with celiac disease who don't maintain a gluten-free diet also have a greater chance of getting one of several forms of cancer, especially intestinal lymphoma and bowel cancer. * Neurological complications. Celiac disease has also been associated with disorders of the nervous system, including seizures (epilepsy) and nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy).