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Can You Die From Celiac Disease & Is It A Disability?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects about 1% of the population. It is triggered by gluten. Consuming cereals containing gluten, such as wheat, rye, and barley leads to inflammation of the small intestine.

Even small amounts of gluten can cause symptoms. If the individual does not eliminate gluten from his diet, the intestinal villi will flatten or even disappear and the lining of the small intestine will no longer be able to absorb enough nutrients, leading to malnutrition. (1)

Can You Die From Celiac Disease?

Can You Die From Celiac Disease?

The celiac disease can be life-threatening if left untreated. You may die because of malnutrition and other associated complications. All in all, chronic, non-responsive or untreated celiac disorder is more likely to cause earlier death of the patient than the general population. Celiac disease is potentially lethal to 10-30% of patients with no diagnosis of the disease and onset of treatment. However, such circumstances are rare with most patients getting diagnosed and do well when gluten is removed from their diet. (2)

The symptoms of celiac disease can vary considerably. In many cases – but not always – the disorder is marked by gastrointestinal symptoms such as:

Some additional general symptoms may also be present in people with celiac disease that may include:

In children, celiac disease develops at an early age, often after weaning during the passage of breast milk to foods containing gluten. If the disease goes unnoticed, there is a risk of growth and developmental disorders. Children with celiac disease usually have a smaller buildup, tendency to cry often and are very sensitive. (3)

Types Of Celiac Disease

Celiac disease can take a classic, symptomatic or subclinical form. All these forms are associated and cause damage to the lining of the small intestine. In addition, there is a risk of celiac disease remaining unnoticed, which is usually discovered by chance and shows intestinal mucosa normal to biopsy. (4)

Is Celiac Disease A Disability?

The symptoms of celiac disease will disappear when the patient stops eating high gluten foods, so not many will be able to receive disability benefits. (7) can occur in people of all ages. When one is suspected of having it, the first step involves testing the blood of the individual. For this purpose, your doctor will have the tissue transglutaminase of immunoglobulin A (IgA, tTG), as well as determine the total IgA count. He will also suggest the determination of anti-endomysial antibodies (EMA) which are just as reliable for diagnosis as the previous one. However, it is less widely used. If antibodies are detected, a biopsy of the small intestine is then performed for confirmation.

Since celiac disease is often hereditary, first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, and children) must also be screened for celiac disease, even if they have no symptoms. This is done as the celiac disease often remain dormant with no or little symptom and emerge as a major problem in later parts of life. Early detection will help you cope with the disease better and go for a gluten-free diet from the early stages of life. (5)

Always Consult Your Doctor Before Opting For A Specific Diet

It is important to consult your doctor before starting a gluten-free diet. If you do it before, the antibodies will no longer be detected in the blood, which prevents the disease from being diagnosed.

The Common Treatment For The Celiac Disease

If the diagnosis of celiac disease is confirmed, your doctor will advise you to start a gluten-free diet immediately. The only effective treatment for celiac disease is to avoid all foods containing gluten. There is no other medication or surgical cure. Going on a gluten-free diet usually leads to rapid improvement. Many people with a celiac disease no longer have any symptoms soon after changing their diets. However, several months may pass before the lining of the destroyed small intestine is completely regenerated. You will need to maintain a gluten-free diet for the rest of your life. (6)


  1. Çaltepe G. The hidden danger: Silent celiac disease. The Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology. 2018;29(5):530.
  2. Parzanese I, Qehajaj D, Patrinicola F, et al. Celiac disease: From pathophysiology to treatment. World journal of gastrointestinal pathophysiology. 2017;8(2):27.
  3. Green PH, Lebwohl B, Greywoode R. Celiac disease. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2015;135(5):1099-1106.
  4. Leonard MM, Sapone A, Catassi C, Fasano A. Celiac disease and nonceliac gluten sensitivity: a review. Jama. 2017;318(7):647-656.
  5. Kelly CP, Bai JC, Liu E, Leffler DA. Advances in diagnosis and management of celiac disease. Gastroenterology. 2015;148(6):1175-1186.
  6. Forbes GM. Improving the Treatment of Celiac Disease. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2019.
  7. I Have Celiac Disease. Can I Get Social Security Disability Benefits? https://www.keefelaw.com/faqs/celiac-disease-social-security-disability-benefits.cfm

Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 16, 2020

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