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Pain in Women During Sex Could be Caused by Untreated Celiac Disease
Claire Atkin

Claire is studying the attitudes of older adults diagnosed with celiac disease toward physical activity at the University of Victoria. She has been diagnosed with celiac disease since she was 20 years old, and writes an academic-oriented gluten-free blog at gfc.tumblr.com, where she posts academic article summaries, corporate correspondence, and a few extras on the side.

By Claire Atkin
Published on 05/28/2009
This case report from Italy found that pain in women during sex coupled with gastrointestinal symptoms were the only indicators of celiac disease.

Celiac.com 05/28/2009 - Dr. Maria Porpora and her fellow researchers in Italy studied a woman back in 2003 who had chronic abdominal and pelvic pain, deep dyspareunia (pain while having sex), and dysmenorrhea (menstruation pain similar to cramps). When she came in to Dr. Porpora’s clinic, she also had diarrhea and had lost five kilograms in the last six months.

Her pain was so bad that she completely avoided having sex. She measured the severity of her pain on a one to ten scale, with one being low and ten being high:

  • Dysmenorrhea: 10
  • Chronic pelvic pain: 7
  • Dysapareunia: 10

She also had a “normal cervix, a mobile, anteveted mildly enlarge uterus caused by myomata (benign tumors), and the absence of adnexal masses (lumps in tissue near the uterus, usually in the ovary or fallopian tube).”

The doctors were justifiably confused, and even performed surgery to help relieve the pain, however, after six months her symptoms returned. She was only partially responsive to their “analgesic, antispasmodic, and antidepressant” drugs. She had no obvious gynecologic disorder.

During subsequent examinations the doctors discovered an issue related to malabsorption, and the patient was tested for gluten antibodies. The results were positive, and the woman was put on a gluten-free diet. After one year on a gluten free diet the woman’s pain disappeared, along with her other symptoms of fatigue, depression, and general intestinal issues.

According to this article, 40% of cases of pelvic pain in women have no known cause, even if they have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel diseases. According to the doctors: “Celiac disease should be taken into consideration when a patient presents with unexplained pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea, or deep dyspareunia if these symptoms are associated with bowel disorders, even in the absence of a known intestinal disease.”

Reference: Obstetrics and gynecology 2002;99(5 Pt 2):937-9.