People with Celiac Disease More Likely to Suffer Nerve Damage, Study Shows

A new study shows that people with Celiac disease are at a higher risk of developing neuropathy, or nerve damage.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can result in significant intestinal damage when a person consumes gluten, which is typically found in wheat products. It’s a relatively new disease that health researchers are still learning about. Currently, about 1-percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease.

Now, researchers in Sweden have discovered that people with celiac disease are 2.5 times more likely to develop neuropathy, or nerve damage. The researchers’ study, which was recently published in the journal JAMA Neurology, involved gathering data from every Swedish person diagnosed with celiac disease between 1969 and 2008. Overall, that represents about 28,000 people.

The research showed that people with celiac disease were far more likely to develop nerve damage at a later date. “It’s quite a high figure, compared to many other outcomes in celiac disease,” notes Dr. Jonas F. Ludvigsson, the clinical epidemiology professor who led the study. “There is a real association between celiac disease and neuropathy…we have precise risk estimates in a way we haven’t had before.”

Moving forward, Ludvigsson believes the study could help doctors learn more about both celiac disease and neuropathy. “I think this paper could actually change clinical practice somewhat,” Ludvigsson says. “Some of these patients will be diagnosed with celiac disease, will have a gluten-free diet and will actually feel better and be healthier.”

Interestingly, the research also showed that approximately 60-percent of Swedes with celiac disease are women. Ludvigsson and other health experts still don’t know why women are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.


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