Celiac.com 08/13/2014 - Even though some folks suffering from symptoms of celiac disease will claim they would welcome death, most people will not actually die from the immediate symptoms of celiac disease; no matter how bad those symptoms get.
However, left untreated, celiac disease can lead to numerous other conditions, several of which are potentially fatal. Remember, many people experience few, or no classic symptoms of celiac disease. These folks may find it easy to keep eating gluten with relatively few noticeable consequences; at least for a time.
1) Cancer—Nobody wants cancer, and especially nobody wants the type of cancer that can strike people with gut damage that comes with long-untreated celiac disease.
People with untreated celiac disease are at risk of developing any number of associated conditions, including gastrointestinal cancer at rates of 40 to 100 times those of the general population. Chief among these types of cancer are a type known as Enteropathy-Associated T-cell Lymphoma (EATL). EATL is a gut cancer that often ends in death. People with celiac disease also need to watch out for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
2) Thyroid Disease - There is a 2.5-fold increased risk of papillary cancer of thyroid for celiac patients.
The good news is that papillary cancer of the thyroid has a high cure rate, with 10-year survival rates estimated at 80% to 90% for any given patient. Still, the dark side is that 10-20% of patients with papillary cancer of the thyroid don’t survive.
3) Epilepsy - Rare form of celiac disease.
Patients with an autoimmune disease faced a nearly four-fold higher risk for epilepsy. In some cases, people with epilepsy can suffer from sudden unexpected death (SUDEP).
SUDEP are still poorly understood, it is possibly the most common cause of death as a result of complications from epilepsy, accounting for between 7.5 to 17% of all epilepsy related deaths and 50% of all deaths in refractory epilepsy.
4) Heart Failure - Celiac disease doubles the risk of coronary artery disease, which can, in many cases prove fatal.
5) Diabetes - Diabetes can cause numerous complications, some of which can be fatal. People with celiac disease have higher rates of diabetes than people without celiac disease. Moreover, long-term celiac disease increases death rates in people with diabetes.
There is also some evidence that a gluten-free diet can lower rates of Type 1 diabetes.
In the end, for people with T1D, having a celiac disease diagnosis for at least 15 years was associated with a 2.80 times greater risk of death
6) Obesity - Recent studies suggest that people with celiac disease are likely to be overweight or obese at the time of presentation.
Of course, long term obesity can increase the likelihood of fatality in numerous categories. People treating celiac disease with a gluten-free diet are more likely to have a healthier weight.
So, while celiac disease won't kill anyone in the short term, it can have devastating consequences if it remains untreated for a long period of time. Share your thoughts on these ways to die from untreated celiac disease, or add additional insights in the comments section.