DEAR MAYO CLINIC: My blood test for celiac disease came back negative, but I am still having symptoms. Is it possible that I still could have it? What should my next steps be?
ANSWER: The symptoms and presentation of celiac disease can vary quite a bit from one person to another. The most common symptoms are bloating and weight loss. Diarrhea or constipation may also affect some people. Less commonly, patients may experience an itchy, burning rash, called dermatitis herpetiformis, as well as heartburn, headaches, fatigue and joint pain, among others. Celiac disease may also cause iron deficiency anemia and neuropathy — tingling or pain in the feet and hands that doesn’t go away. Eventually, if left untreated, celiac disease may cause damage to the nervous system, bones, brain, liver and other organs.
If you have celiac disease, eating gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley and rye — triggers an immune response in your small intestine that leads to inflammation. Over time, that inflammation damages the lining of the small intestine, making it difficult for the small intestine to absorb some nutrients.