New research: children with CD at low risk of neurological problems

Dr Peter Gillett

3 November 2021

Until now, there has been limited research investigating neurological problems in children with coeliac disease, whilst research in adults has found neurological symptoms to be common. New research conducted by Dr Peter Gillett - consultant paediatric gastroenterologist, and his team, reveals that children with coeliac disease have a lower frequency of neurological problems than diagnosed adults and more reassuringly the frequency of neurological problems is similar to children without coeliac disease.

Dr Peter Gillett, Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist said:

“This is the first UK community-based research looking at neurological problems in children with coeliac disease and adds to the evidence base that children have a lower risk of neurological problems than adults with coeliac disease. We think this might be thanks to an earlier diagnosis and the results of our research seem to support this, as children with coeliac disease who had neurological problems were on average diagnosed at an older age.” 

What was investigated and how

The researchers investigated the presentation of a range of neurological problems in children with coeliac disease including headaches/migraine, seizures, autistic spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and low mood.

The researchers also looked at ataxia and neuropathy which are commonly reported neurological symptoms in adults with coeliac disease.

The number of neurological problems in children diagnosed with coeliac disease in Lothian, Scotland between January 2010 and December 2016 was compared with neurological problems in adults with coeliac disease and the general childhood population.


The good news is that the study found the frequency of neurological problems in children with coeliac disease was lower than adults with coeliac disease and similar to the general childhood population. This is reassuring and the researchers speculate that it could be explained by earlier diagnosis and being exposed to gluten for less time.

Interestingly, balance or movement problems were described, but these and neuropathy were less common in children with coeliac disease compared to adults with coeliac disease, but it wasn’t possible to compare this with children in the general population as it isn’t known how common these conditions are in children in the general population.

More research is needed

Research to assess neurological problems, which includes specialist tests, is needed to further explore this area of research. Understanding neurological forms of coeliac disease is one of Coeliac UK’s ten top research priorities. If you or your child are experiencing unexplained or undiagnosed neurological problems, please speak to your GP who can investigate further.

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