Celiac disease appears to be linked to nerve damage known as neuropathy.
Researchers examined medical records of over 28,000 patients with celiac disease as well as 139,000 people who were never diagnosed with the disorder. They found that those patients with the condition were 2.5 times as likely as the control group to suffer from nerve damage.
Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is a digestive disorder that causes pain and discomfort to sufferers when they consume the protein composite. This autoimmune response can reduce the efficiency of food absorption and can damage the linings of small intestines. Roughly 1 percent of all Americans suffers from gluten intolerance, regardless of race or gender.
The idea that the two medical conditions could be linked goes back about five decades, although this new study is the most-detailed investigation yet done of the idea.
Despite the apparent strong correlation between neuropathy and celiac disease, the total numbers of patients still remains low enough that a definite correlation between the two conditions cannot be proven. Neuropathy was seen in 0.3 percent of patients in the control group and 0.7 percent of people with celiac disease. There was no apparent difference in the possible correlation of the two conditions detected between men and women.
"We found an increased risk of neuropathy in patients with CD [celiac disease] that persists after CD diagnosis. Although absolute risks for neuropathy are low, CD is a potentially treatable condition with a young age of onset. Our findings suggest that screening could be beneficial in patients with neuropathy," researchers wrote in an article detailing their study.
According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, roughly 83 percent of people suffering from CD are not diagnosed, or their health care provider believes their symptoms are attributable to other causes. Patients can often wait between six and 10 years before they are properly diagnosed with the disorder. Celiac disease can also lead to other autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders, reduced bone density and even some forms of cancer. There are no known treatments for the condition, leaving patients with little choice except to remove gluten — which gives dough its elasticity — from their diets.
Neuropathy is a medical term used for many different forms of nerve damage, although it usually refers to nerves outside the central nervous system. Such damage can be brought on from a number of causes, including infection, physical trauma or chemical influences. Many forms can be treated through therapy and drugs.
Analysis of the possible association of celiac disease with neuropathy was profiled in the journal Jama Neurology.
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