Symptoms of coeliac disease 

Symptoms of coeliac disease can range from mild to severe, and often come and go.

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.

Common symptoms

The most common symptom of coeliac disease is diarrhoea, caused by the body not being able to fully absorb nutrients (malabsorption).

Malabsorption can also lead to stools containing abnormally high levels of fat (steatorrhoea). This can make them foul smelling, greasy and frothy. They may also be difficult to flush down the toilet.

Other common symptoms include:

Malnutrition

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, as well as delayed puberty in older children.

Dermatitis herpetiformis

Although not a symptom of coeliac disease, if you have an autoimmune response to gluten, you may also develop a type of skin rash known as dermatitis herpetiformis.

The rash is itchy and characterised by blisters that burst when scratched. The rash usually appears on your elbows, knees and buttocks, although it can appear anywhere on your body.

It is estimated around one in five people with coeliac disease also develop dermatitis herpetiformis.

The exact cause of dermatitis herpetiformis is not known, but, as with coeliac disease, the condition is associated with gluten. Like coeliac disease, it should clear up after switching to a gluten-free diet.

Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is the passing of watery stools more than is normal for you. It is often a symptom of an infection or long-term condition. In this video, Dr Rupal Shah explains the most common causes of diarrhoea and the effects it can have on your body.

Media last reviewed: 30/04/2013

Next review due: 30/04/2015

Is it a food allergy or intolerance?

Around 2% of people in the UK have a food allergy, but many more have a food intolerance

Page last reviewed: 31/07/2014

Next review due: 31/07/2016