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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

    Gluten Sensitivity Found to be the Most Common Cause of Sporadic Idiopathic Ataxia

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Brain. 2003 Mar;126(Pt 3):685-91.

    Celiac.com 08/11/2005 – Researchers in the United Kingdom screened 224 patients with various forms of ataxia (59 with familial, 132 sporadic idiopathic, and 33 with clinically probable cerebellar variant of multiple system atrophy MSA-C) for the presence of antigliadin antibodies and found that 24% of the ataxia patients were sensitive to gluten, and 72% of them had the HLA DQ2 genetic marker. Their results were compared with those of 1,200 healthy controls. Among the familial ataxia group 8 or 59 (14%), 54 of 132 (41%) of the sporadic idiopathic group, 5 of 33 (15%) in the MSA-C group, and 149 of the 1,200 (1.24%) controls, screened positive for antigliadin antibodies. The difference in prevalence between the idiopathic sporadic groups and the other groups was highly significant. Gastrointestinal symptoms were present in only 13% of the ataxia patients. MRI testing found atrophy of the cerebellum in 79% and white matter hyperintensities in 19% of the ataxia patients, and 45% of patients had neurophysiological evidence of a sensorimotor axonal neuropathy.

    The researchers conclude that gluten ataxia is the single most common cause of sporadic idiopathic ataxia, and antigliadin antibody testing is should be done immediately on everyone with symptoms of sporadic ataxia.


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    Define the variations of Ataxia (what are you REALLY talking about?). This article is over the heads of most folks who are looking for information. Too technical, too few explanations that really tell folks something. Not your best effort, unfortunately.

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    My mom had what I firmly believe was undiagnosed gluten ataxia. The doctors finally told her, in an effort to passify her, that she had 'lower level Parkinson's disease', although she never had any tremors or any other symptom of Parkinson's other than loss of balance. She took every Parkinson's drug available; none of the drugs had any effect what-so-ever on her ataxia. She passed away in 2005 after many months of suffering; it breaks my heart that no one thought to test for gluten intolerance. We need to get the word out about 'gluten ataxia'. I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant at age 60 and I'm hoping that I can avoid the suffering she experienced.

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    My mom had what I firmly believe was undiagnosed gluten ataxia. The doctors finally told her, in an effort to passify her, that she had 'lower level Parkinson's disease', although she never had any tremors or any other symptom of Parkinson's other than loss of balance. She took every Parkinson's drug available; none of the drugs had any effect what-so-ever on her ataxia. She passed away in 2005 after many months of suffering; it breaks my heart that no one thought to test for gluten intolerance. We need to get the word out about 'gluten ataxia'. I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant at age 60 and I'm hoping that I can avoid the suffering she experienced.

    My mom also passed away. She was diagnosed with Cerebellar Ataxia in 2001 and passed in 2010. I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease in 1996, also having a severe IgA deficiency. My two children were tested for IgA antibodies and both have IgA deficiency. As this is highly unusual, IgA deficiency is usually sporadic genetic, doctors asked if or who else in the family has been tested. Although I asked everyone to be tested, no one complied as they had no symptoms... and probably didn't want to be diagnosed as Coeliac ... which is absurd but ... oh well.

    Mom had the same gastrointestinal symptoms I had experienced for most of my life. She refused to try any restrictive diet as she didn't believe it would do her any good. Very sad. No support from doctors or nurses either.

    Her cholesterol became quite high later in life, although she was quite thin, except for the "belly", and always had very low blood pressure. She also suffered from constant recurrences of anaemia throughout her life. A tumour on her parathyroid was removed a few years before her death. She had kidney stones early in life. Always had very dry skin and was very sensitive to the cold. Many different symptoms which could be attributed to a variety of illnesses.

    Many of my relatives have various auto-immune diseases and I wonder ... could Mom have been cured? She was such a vibrant, active, beautiful, caring woman ...

    I sincerely hope research in this area of Coeliac disease continues.

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  • About Me

    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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