Coeliac disease, epilepsy, and cerebral calcifications. The Italian Working Group on Coeliac Disease and Epilepsy.
Lancet. 1992 Aug 22;340(8817):439-43. PMID: 1354781
Divisione di Neuropsichiatria Infantile, Istituto per l'Infanzia, Trieste, Italy.
There have been anecdotal reports of an association between coeliac disease and epilepsy with cerebral calcifications that resemble those of the Sturge-Weber syndrome. A series of patients who had epilepsy with calcifications, in whom coeliac disease (CD) was incidentally observed, prompted us to study this association. 43 patients (15 male, age range 4.6-30.7 years) were selected from two series. 31 patients with cerebral calcifications of unexplained origin and epilepsy (series A) underwent intestinal biopsy. 12 patients with CD and epilepsy (series B) underwent computed tomography. Antibodies to gluten, folic acid serum concentrations, were measured, and HLA typing was done in most patients. 24 of the series A patients were identified as having CD on the basis of a flat intestinal mucosa (15/22 with a high concentration of serum antigluten), and 5 series B patients showed cerebral calcifications, giving a total of 29 cases with the combination of CD, epilepsy, and cerebral calcifications (CEC). In 27 of these CEC patients, calcifications were located in the parieto-occipital regions. Only 2 of the series A patients had gastrointestinal symptoms at the time of intestinal biopsy; most patients had recurrent diarrhoea, anaemia, and other symptoms suggestive of CD in the first 3 years of life. The epilepsy in CEC patients was poorly responsive to antiepileptic drugs. Gluten-free diet beneficially affected the course of epilepsy only when started soon after epilepsy onset. Cases of "atypical Sturge-Weber syndrome" (characterised by serpiginous cerebral calcifications and epilepsy without facial port-wine naevus) should be reviewed, and CD should be ruled out in all cases of epilepsy and cerebral calcifications of unexplained origin.