celiac disease is left untreated, complications may
develop. Some of these problems can occur because of the small intestine's
inability to digest food and absorb nutrients properly. Other problems may
develop from damage to the intestinal lining that may or may not cause
Teens and adults often have milder symptoms, but they may still have complications. Some complications in teens and adults are different from those in children.
Complications in children
Children who have
untreated celiac disease may develop complications such as:
Weight loss and failure to grow, also known as
failure to thrive. A child may be short for his or her
age and have small, undeveloped muscles of the buttocks, arms, and legs. A
child's belly may appear swollen. Even if a child eats well, his or her weight
may be below normal.
osteoporosis. These conditions may develop because the
body does not absorb enough calcium and vitamin D.
Iron deficiency anemia. Children who have
celiac disease are at increased risk for developing iron deficiency anemia
because their intestines are not able to absorb enough iron.
tooth enamel. Enamel may not form normally on the
teeth, leaving them soft and yellow.
Intussusception. Celiac disease may damage the
intestines, causing this condition to occur.
Rectal prolapse. This condition of the large intestine may develop with severe
Complications in teens
Teens who have untreated
celiac disease can have many of the same problems as those in younger children.
In addition, they may have:
Delays in growth. Teens may be short and
underweight for their age.
puberty. Menstrual periods may start later than normal
in girls. Facial hair growth and voice changes may occur late in boys.
It is sometimes hard for teens to consistently follow
a gluten-free diet. Make sure your teen knows that the more he or she doesn't
follow the diet, the more likely the above complications are to develop.
Complications in adults
Adults who have
celiac disease may develop complications such as:
Refractory sprue. When symptoms don't get better or come back in spite of a gluten-free diet, this is called refractory sprue.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.