Celiac.com 06/05/2015 - For anyone with celiac disease, following a lifelong gluten-free diet has been shown to relieve symptoms, and in celiac patients it has been shown to normalize serologic markers of celiac disease, and to restore damaged intestinal villi.
When celiac disease goes untreated, when people who have celiac disease refuse to follow a gluten-free diet, chronic gluten-related inflammation and damage impairs absorption of nutrients, and likely causes malabsorption of oral medications.
Malabsorption resulting from damaged mucosa can lead to:
- Nutritional deficiencies of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as the B vitamins, thereby diminishing the absorption of iron, calcium, and folic acid. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to:
- Iron-deficiency anemia refractory to oral iron supplementation, and potentially osteoporosis and osteopenia due to bone loss due to decreased calcium and vitamin D absorption. A combination of nutritional deficiencies and the damaging effects of systemwide chronic inflammation can cause:
- Reproductive abnormalities, such as delayed puberty, secondary amenorrhea, infertility, or decreased fertility. Adverse immune responses to gluten ingestion can trigger other common manifestations, such as:
- Dermatitis herpetiformis, a papulovesicular rash. Beyond that, problems can include:
- Fractures secondary to low bone mineral density. In some cases, untreated celiac disease can lead to intestinal malignancies such as:
- Intestinal T-cell lymphomas.
- Small-bowel adenocarcinoma.
- Esophageal cancer.
- B- and T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas.
Rapid, proper diagnosis and effective treatment of celiac disease are crucial to preventing a cascade of related problems that can further impair diagnosis, and cause irreparable damage to patient health.