Gluten Ataxia: The Newest Gluten Sensitivity

How is Gluten Ataxia Diagnosed?

Gluten ataxia is a newly discovered condition. In fact, it is so new that some doctors and scientists are skeptical that gluten is really the cause of ataxia in the people who carry the diagnosis. A great deal of research is under way to determine if the disorder is really unique or just a byproduct of some other process. Evidence is mounting in support of the fact that gluten ataxia is a real condition in its own right.

Right now, gluten ataxia is diagnosed if the following two criteria are met:

  • Ataxia is present and there is no other definitive explanation for it.
  • There are antibodies or other serological (blood) markers for gluten sensitivity.

People with ataxia will often have tremors (shaking in the hands and legs), muscle spasms, and difficulty with their balance. They usually have trouble coordinating movement, which makes walking and fine motor activity (e.g. writing) very difficult. The disease has a mean age of onset of 53, but can occur at almost any time. Many who suffer from gluten ataxia (about 60%) will show damage to the cerebellum on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
For people in whom gluten ataxia is being considered, the following serologic markers should be tested. In anyone in which ataxia cannot be explained by some other means, these markers should also be tested.

    • Anti-gliadin antibody (both the IgG and IgA forms). Also called AGA.
    • Anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody. Also called AtTG.
    • Anti-tissue transglutaminase-6 antibody (IgA and IgG forms if available). Also called AtTG6.
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