Scand J Gastroenterol 2002 Nov;37(11):1276-81
Volta U, De Giorgio R, Petrolini N, Stangbellini V, Barbara G, Granito A, De Ponti F, Corinaldesi R, Bianchi FB.
Dept. of Internal Medicine, Cardioangiology, Hepatology, University of Bologna, Italy.
Little is known about the clinical and immunological features of coeliac disease patients with neurological disorders. In a large series of adult coeliac disease patients, we investigated the prevalence of neurological disorders and anti-neuronal antibodies, along with the clinical course.
Neurological symptoms were investigated in 160 consecutive patients (120 F, 40 M) with biopsy-proven coeliac disease. Anti-neuronal antibodies to central/enteric nervous systems were investigated in all neurological patients, 20 unaffected ones and 20 controls.
Thirteen (8%) patients had neurological disorders, including epilepsy (n = 3), attention/memory impairment (n = 3), cerebellar ataxia (n = 2), peripheral neuropathy (n = 2), multiple sclerosis (n = 1), Moyamoya disease (n = 1) and Steinert's disease (n = 1). No significant demographic or clinical differences (gastrointestinal or other gluten-related signs) were found between patients with and without neurological involvement. In all but 2 of the 13 cases, the neurological disorder preceded diagnosis of coeliac disease. Neurological symptoms improved or disappeared in 7 patients who started a gluten-free diet within 6 months after neurological onset, and in none of 4 patients who began later. Prevalence of central nervous system anti-neuronal antibodies was significantly higher in neurological (61%) than in other patients (5%) (P = 0.0007) or controls (0%) (P = 0.00001).
Coeliac disease can sometimes present in the guise of a neurological disorder, which may greatly improve when a gluten-free diet is started promptly. Therefore, the possible presence of coeliac disease needs to be carefully considered in patients with cerebellar ataxia, epilepsy, attention/memory impairment or peripheral neuropathy.