Headache in pediatric patients with celiac disease and its prevalence as a diagnostic clue

Elena Lionetti, Ruggiero Francavilla, Luigi Maiuri, Martino Ruggieri, Massimo Spina, Piero Pavone, Teresa Francavilla, Anna Maria Magistà, Lorenzo Pavone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives:: To establish the prevalence of headache in children with celiac disease (CD), the response to a gluten-free diet, and the prevalence of CD in children affected by headache. Methods:: This hospital-based study included 2 steps. In the retrospective part, 354 children with CD answered a questionnaire investigating the presence of headache before and after the gluten-free diet. The same questionnaire was administered to 200 healthy children matched for sex and age. In the prospective part, 79 children affected by headache were screened for CD by antitransglutaminase IgA. Diagnosis of CD was confirmed by duodenal biopsy; before starting a gluten-free diet patients underwent a brain positron emission tomography study. After 6 months of follow-up children were reevaluated for the presence of headache. Results:: Overall, 88 patients with CD complained of headaches before the diagnosis of CD as compared with 16 in the control group (24.8% vs 8%, P <0.001). After the institution of a gluten-free diet, the headaches significantly improved in 68 children (77.3%), of whom 24 (27.3%) were headache-free during the study period. Four of 79 (5%) headache patients were found to have CD compared with 0.6% of the general population (P = 0.005). The brain positron emission tomography studies did not show any anomalies. During the follow-up, headaches improved in all 4 children with CD. Conclusions:: We recorded-in our geographical area-a high frequency of headaches in patients with CD and vice versa with a beneficial effect of a gluten-free diet. Screening for CD could be advised in the diagnostic work-up of patients with headache.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-207
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009


  • Celiac disease
  • Children
  • Gluten-free diet
  • Headache

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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