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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Man's Fall in Shower Leads to Celiac Diagnosis

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 07/22/2016 - You think you have a crazy celiac disease diagnosis story? Try this one. When a college student fell and struck his shoulder while showering, he went to the emergency treatment center.

    There, in addition to shoulder pain from the fall, he complained of numbness in his feet, along with general weakness and fatigue in the preceding few weeks. Blood tests showed the man had mild anemia, prompting the doctor to check his vitamin B-12 level, which was also low. This was puzzling.

    The patient was a 20-year-old, seemingly healthy Asian man, whose omnivorous diet should have provided enough B-12 to sustain normal blood levels. That meant that the next likely cause was poor B-12 absorption through the stomach or intestines.

    Besides pernicious anemia, which is marked by the absence of a protein in the stomach, the most frequent causes of B-12 malabsorption include celiac disease, HIV, chronic inflammation of the pancreas and even a type of tapeworm infection. The man's youth and general good health seems to rule out pernicious anemia.

    Although he had adhered to a more typical Chinese diet that was heavy on fish and rice, he had recently been eating a lot of pizza. Pizza means gluten. Lots of gluten. So could he have celiac disease?

    Although most commonly associated with some sort of gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea or abdominal cramping, celiac disease can have other symptoms, such as fatigue and numbness of extremities. Celiac often interferes with the gut's ability to absorb vitamin B-12.

    Ultimately, the patient met with a gastroenterologist who diagnosed celiac disease. The patient saw his B-12 levels return to normal when he began a gluten-free diet. The numbness has also improved.

    So, remember, celiac disease can have some vague and confusing symptoms that will usually improve significantly with a gluten-free diet.

    Have a wild celiac disease diagnosis story of your own?

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    He was lucky it was caught early. I went without a diagnosis for years. Multiple doctors saying it was in my head . This guy does not know how lucky he is. I'm permanently disabled from late stage diagnosis.

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    Joanne, Agreed! I have had numbness in my left foot pad for 30 years which was undiagnosed and has now affected my balance somewhat, however not even close to where I would consider myself disabled. Very slow progress - luckily. I recently found that I have celiac disease and have been on a gluten-free diet for over 6 months. I hope this will arrest the PN progress but I have no illusions that the diet might reverse it.

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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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