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Coeliac disease - Symptoms of coeliac disease

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Symptoms of coeliac disease can range from mild to severe.

Recognise the symptoms:

The symptoms are often intermittent (they stop and then start again), and sometimes appear unrelated to your diet and digestive symptoms.

Mild cases of coeliac disease may not cause any noticeable symptoms and the condition is often only detected during testing for another condition. However, treatment is recommended as complications can still occur in these cases.

Severe coeliac disease

Symptoms of severe coeliac disease include:

  • diarrhoea, which can often suddenly occur during the night, resulting in bowel incontinence (loss of bowel control) 
  • weight loss
  • stomach cramps
  • muscle spasms
  • swelling of your hands, feet, arms and legs, caused by a build-up of fluid (oedema)

Your stools (faeces or 'poo') may also contain abnormally high levels of fat (steatorrhoea), which can make them foul smelling, greasy and frothy. They may also be difficult to flush down the toilet.

If coeliac disease is untreated, being unable to digest food in the normal way could cause you to become malnourished, making you feel tired and lacking in energy.

Malnutrition in children can lead to failure to grow at the expected rate, both in terms of weight and height, and in older children a delayed puberty.

Medical Review: April 30, 2012
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