Unexplained joint pains (arthralgias) were one of the main symptoms that I dealt with prior to my celiac diagnosis. Throughout my twenties I had pain and stiffness in my fingers, knees and ankles that would come and go with no apparent explanation. I ran track for part of high school and continued to run for fitness during college, but shortly after graduating had to stop running for a long time due to my joint issues. I was evaluated over and over again for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme Disease, etc. but there were never any answers for why I had developed the pains. So I learned to live with them and I stopped running. Fortunately, since going GF in 2010 my arthralgias have almost entirely disappeared, and I was able to resume running again.
Based on previous research, up to 25% of people with celiac disease may experience joint pains. In just the last few months there have been a few interesting studies published about the relationship between celiac disease and joint issues.
A group of researchers published a paper last week showing a significant relationship between joint inflammation and celiac disease in children. They evaluated the knees, hips, and ankles of children with celiac disease (n=74) by ultrasound. They compared ultrasound findings of those with treated v. untreated celiac disease and found that 50% of those who were not on the GF diet had evidence of joint inflammation v. only 11% of those who were GF.
In a recent Tunisian study, researchers tested over 200 women with unexplained arthralgias (joint pains) for celiac disease. They found much high rates of undiagnosed celiac disease in their sample (2.37%) than in the general population in their country (0.28%). Interestingly enough, all of the women who were diagnosed did have other symptoms of celiac disease, such as anemia and infertility, when their medical records were reviewed after-the-fact.
In addition, Dr. Guandalini refers to the relationship between celiac disease and arthritis in his review of celiac disease in children that was published earlier this month in JAMA Pediatrics (see my previous post for a summary and for the actual reference).
Although the relationship (or lack of one) between juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and celiac disease appears to be debatable in the medical literature, this story, which was published last year in the NY Times, does present a compelling case for a link, at least in some cases.
Have any of you experienced celiac-related joint pains? If so, please share, as your stories may lead others to be diagnosed…
- Lubrano E, Ciacci C, Ames PR, et al. The arthritis of coeliac disease: prevalence and pattern in 200 adult patients. Br J Rheumatol. 1996;35(12):1314.
- Iagnocco A, Ceccarelli F, Mennini M, et al. Subclinical synovitis detected by ultrasound in children affected by coeliac disease: a frequent manifestation improved by a gluten-free diet.Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2014 Jan 20. [Epub ahead of print]
- Ghozzi M, Sakly W, Mankaï A, et al. Screening for celiac disease, by endomysial antibodies, in patients with unexplained articular manifestations. Rheumatol Int. 2013 Dec 1. [Epub ahead of print]