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Neurologic presentation of celiac disease

  • Khalafalla O. Bushara
    Correspondence
    Address requests for reprints to: Khalafalla O. Bushara, MD, 127 Minneapolis VA Medical Center, 1 Veterans Drive, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55417
    Affiliations
    Neurology Department, Minneapolis VA Medical Center and University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota
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      Celiac disease (CD) long has been associated with neurologic and psychiatric disorders including cerebellar ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, epilepsy, dementia, and depression. Earlier reports mainly have documented the involvement of the nervous system as a complication of prediagnosed CD. However, more recent studies have emphasized that a wider spectrum of neurologic syndromes may be the presenting extraintestinal manifestation of gluten sensitivity with or without intestinal pathology. These include migraine, encephalopathy, chorea, brain stem dysfunction, myelopathy, mononeuritis multiplex, Guillain-Barré-like syndrome, and neuropathy with positive antiganglioside antibodies. The association between most neurologic syndromes described and gluten sensitivity remains to be confirmed by larger epidemiologic studies. It further has been suggested that gluten sensitivity (as evidenced by high antigliadin antibodies) is a common cause of neurologic syndromes (notably cerebellar ataxia) of otherwise unknown cause. Additional studies showed high prevalence of gluten sensitivity in genetic neurodegenerative disorders such as hereditary spinocerebellar ataxia and Huntington’s disease. It remains unclear whether gluten sensitivity contributes to the pathogenesis of these disorders or whether it represents an epiphenomenon. Studies of gluten-free diet in patients with gluten sensitivity and neurologic syndromes have shown variable results. Diet trials also have been inconclusive in autism and schizophrenia, 2 diseases in which sensitivity to dietary gluten has been implicated. Further studies clearly are needed to assess the efficacy of gluten-free diet and to address the underlying mechanisms of nervous system pathology in gluten sensitivity.

      Abbreviations used in this paper:

      CD (celiac disease)
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