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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Celiac Crisis: A Rare but Serious Complication of Celiac Disease in Adults

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology research on celiac crisis

    Celiac.com 08/02/2010 - Celiac crisis is a rare, poorly understood, but potentially deadly condition in which patients with celiac disease suffer from severe diarrhea and other serious metabolic changes.

    Celiac crisis is specifically defined as acute onset or rapid progression of gastrointestinal symptoms, together with signs or symptoms of dehydration or malnutrition that may be attributed to celiac disease, and which require hospitalization and/or supplemental nutrition.

    In an effort better understand celiac crisis, and to improve diagnosis techniques for the condition, a team of researchers reviewed cases of celiac crisis to identify presenting features, formulate diagnostic criteria, and develop treatment strategies.

    The research team included Shailaja Jamma, Alberto Rubio-Tapia, Ciaran P.  Kelly, Joseph Murray, Robert Najarian, Sunil Sheth, Detlef Schuppan, Melinda Dennis, and Daniel A. Leffler. They are affiliated variously with the Celiac Center of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, and with the Mayo Clinic.

    The team reviewed cases of biopsy-proven celiac disease, specifically defined as acute onset or rapid progression of gastrointestinal symptoms, together with signs or symptoms of dehydration or malnutrition that may be attributed to celiac disease, and which require hospitalization and/or parenteral nutrition.

    The team found twelve patients who met preset criteria for celiac crisis; eleven patients who developed celiac crisis before being diagnosed with celiac disease; eleven patients with increased titres of transglutaminase antibodies; and one patient with low levels of immunoglobulin A. Duodenal biopsy samples for all patients were consistent with a Marsh 3 score; 33% showed total villous atrophy.

    All patients showed signs or symptoms of severe dehydration, renal dysfunction, and electrolyte disturbances. All patients required hospitalization and intravenous fluids, six patients required corticosteroids, and five required parenteral nutrition. All patients showed positive response to treatment with a gluten-free diet.

    Even though celiac crisis is a rare condition that strikes adults, it is nonetheless serious and carries a high risk of death. In most cases, patients with the condition present clear signs and symptoms, such as severe unexplained diarrhea and malabsorption. Doctors should test such patients for celiac disease, and consider treatment with systemic steroids or oral budesonide, in addition to providing short-term nutritional support until the patients respond fully to a gluten-free diet.

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    That describes exactly what happened to me, sans the parenteral nutrition.

     

    No mention was ever made of Celiac crisis, just the fact that I had celiac disease. A few days in the hospital, the endoscopy and diagnosis, then on with the new way of life.

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    That's what happened to me. That is why I was finally was diagnosed. I was told by one of the moderators that I greatly exaggerated my symptoms. Thanks a lot for the support....

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    I starting getting stomach aches & diarrhea after every meal at the age of 12, never went far from a bathroom, hospitalized and diagnosed with everything but celiac (dairy problem, not). Fiinally at the age of 52 my sister-in-law got sick with the same symptoms and was diagnosed with celiac. I went off of gluten myself, gained 20 pounds (I was really thin) and haven't had a stomach ache or diarrhea since, I work in the health-care field and saw every gastro doctor in Philly, I thought I was dying, shame on them!

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    I never had the diarrhea problem...but I have severe fluctuations with my blood pressure and heart rate.

    I have gone off celiac for my nausea and general stomach upset that doesn't result in diarrhea but sometimes loose bowels and then constipation. I do feel much better but haven't heard a connection with blood pressure and heart rate issues...just wondering.

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    Same thing happened to me prior to my diagnosis...my doctors didn't have a clue what was wrong for months...even the gastroenterologist I was referred to failed to make the diagnosis. By the time I was finally diagnosed, I had lost 70 lbs and was unable to digest any food. Sadly, many doctors have very little knowledge about Celiac disease. I suffered needlessly for about a year.

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    I've had bouts of diarrhea off and on for ages. Been treated for IBS since 1990. I believe I had a celiac crisis around 1997 when I had to go into the ER for rehydration due to a long episode of diarrhea. The doctors talked about "dumping syndrome" --everything was going through me in minutes. But nobody even thought of gluten. In 2002 I believe I had another when I was up all night, with diarrhea every 20 minutes on two occasions a few days apart. I'd eaten spaghetti and garlic bread the first time and the leftovers the next, but didn't make the connection. I finally diagnosed myself a couple of months later, after seeing a nutritionist who mentioned wheat or gluten allergies. Duh--my daughter was diagnosed with celiac in 1959. Never knew adults could get it.

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    I never had the diarrhea problem...but I have severe fluctuations with my blood pressure and heart rate.

    I have gone off celiac for my nausea and general stomach upset that doesn't result in diarrhea but sometimes loose bowels and then constipation. I do feel much better but haven't heard a connection with blood pressure and heart rate issues...just wondering.

    I do also suffer with heart palpitations as soon as I eat something with gluten. I can tell you by my heart reaction that I know almost immediately I have ingested gluten and as I start reading labels, always find the cause. Does not happen as often now that I have a better handle on foods containing gluten. I will say that the heart response had started to become quite severe before I realized what was causing it including heavy chest and pain. Apparently people who have the heart involved are true allergy responses and not just a sensitivity. Hope this helps!

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    This is a great read, four years ago I suffered from coeliac crisis, upon going to hospital I was told it was food poisoning, the more attacks over the next 8 months and I decided to go to my doctor and demand a test for coeliac, he refused and told me I most probably had Gilberts Syndrome, a totally unrelated disorder. in the end after dozens of other tests over the course of three years I was forced to take matters into my own hands, switching my diet following the Gluten Free plan and I have been fine since.

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    I never had the diarrhea problem...but I have severe fluctuations with my blood pressure and heart rate.

    I have gone off celiac for my nausea and general stomach upset that doesn't result in diarrhea but sometimes loose bowels and then constipation. I do feel much better but haven't heard a connection with blood pressure and heart rate issues...just wondering.

    I had issues with very low blood pressure and occasional racing heart. Saw a heart specialist who thought I should be on beta blockers. Glad I didn't listen. Finally diagnosed with celiac 9 years later!

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    The racing heart thing was one I did not know about but remember it happening many times before my diagnosis. Since diagnosis and going gluten free, I seldom have the palpitations anymore.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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