Recent research has revealed that the spectrum of diseases associated with celiac disease may be much wider than previously thought. A team of scientists analyzing a database of the electronic health records of 36 million people discovered potential links between celiac disease and a multitude of conditions as diverse as liver disease, Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, eosinophilic esophagitis, anxiety disorder, Down syndrome, psoriasis and autism.
For many people with celiac disease, gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea take center stage. But for a subset of people with celiac disease, eating or coming into contact with gluten results in a vicious skin rash, either as the only symptom or as a complement to the more typical ones. This rash, known as dermatitis herpetiformis, or DH, typically presents as a series of small raised red lesions that are either solid or filled with fluid. They often show up on the elbows, forearms, scalp, knees, buttocks and even the face. They’re usually bilaterally symmetrical, meaning they appear on both sides of the body at the same time, and they are intensely itchy.
There’s ample scientific evidence that untreated celiac disease, characterized by inflammation and nutrient deficiencies, can lead to infertility. There can be issues during pregnancy, too. If a woman with untreated celiac does conceive, the fetus potentially could be at risk: An Italian study published in 2010 demonstrated that anti-transglutaminase (anti-tTG) antibodies in the blood—a hallmark of untreated celiac disease—can interfere with the function of the placenta, possibly leading to early loss of the pregnancy.