Neurological disorders, like peripheral neuropathy, occur in up to 10% of people with celiac disease. Also, some people with celiac disease may have neuropathic symptoms before they exhibit any gastrointestinal symptoms. Therefore, if you develop neuropathy and your doctor can’t find a cause for it, you may want to be tested for celiac disease.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that you can develop at any age. When people with this disease eat food containing the protein gluten (found in wheat and other grains), their immune system reacts by damaging the lining of their small intestine. A person then becomes malnourished, because the nutrients from food can’t be absorbed correctly through the lining.
What are the symptoms of celiac disease?
The symptoms of this disease can vary from person to person. Some people may have no symptoms at all. However, some common symptoms include:
- Chronic diarrhea or constipation or both
- Stomach pain, gas, bloating, and/or indigestion
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Oily, bloody or foul-smelling stools
What is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves in your hands and feet, often due diabetes, traumatic injuries, infections or metabolic disorders like celiac disease.
What are the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy?
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include:
- Numbness and tingling in your feet or hands that may spread up your legs and arms
- Burning, sharp, jabbing or electric shock-like pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Lack of coordination
Diagnosis and treatment of these conditions
If you suspect you may have peripheral neuropathy or celiac disease, it’s important to be diagnosed by your doctor. To determine if you have neuropathy, your doctor may do a neurological exam and other tests. To confirm if you have celiac disease, your doctor may order blood tests and a biopsy of the lining of your small intestine.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for celiac disease. But the lining of your small intestine can heal by following a lifelong gluten-free diet. If you experience nutritional deficiencies, you’ll need to take additional vitamin and mineral supplements.
By following a gluten-free diet, your symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may improve. However, your doctor will likely have you stop taking any medications that cause peripheral neuropathy. Other treatments may include:
- Pain medications.
- The avoidance of standing or walking for long periods of time.
- Soaking your feet in ice water.
- Wearing properly fitted shoes that provide room for circulation. Refer to our Shoe Fitting Guidelines for more information. Also, ask your doctor if you should wear custom or extra-depth shoes.
- Wearing custom orthotics, like ezWalker® Performance Insoles. While ezWalkers® won’t reduce your symptoms of celiac disease, they can provide you with the accommodative support you need for your feet. ezWalkers® are designed to guide your feet into a more desirable biomechanic position to improve or control abnormal foot function. These insoles redistribute pressure on your feet, reducing foot pain.
- Safety measures to reduce the risk of falls during walking.
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Note: If you follow these guidelines and your pain or foot problems persist, you may have a more serious condition. See your physician for a more complete diagnosis and treatment.