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Neurological complications of coeliac disease: what is the evidence?

Abstract

Coeliac disease is a chronic immune-mediated disorder that primarily affects the gastrointestinal tract. There is an inflammatory response in the intestine to the ingestion of gluten which improves with a gluten-free diet. Many patients, especially adults, may be asymptomatic or have only extraintestinal symptoms at onset without any of the classical coeliac symptoms. In the last two decades there have been increasing numbers of reports describing neurological complications of coeliac disease, especially ataxia, peripheral neuropathy and epilepsy. This literature has become quite controversial, with disputes over the definition of coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity, whether neurological complications are caused by coeliac disease or are epiphenomena, and whether the proposed complications respond to a gluten-free diet. This review uses an evidence-based approach to critically assess this literature and provides guidelines for the evaluation and management of these patients.

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