Sensory ganglionopathy may respond well to a strict gluten-free diet

The sensory ganglia are found on the roots of cranial and spinal nerve cells. They provide connections between the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (nerves that conduct sensation from the body to the brain, and orders for movement from the brain to the rest of the body).

Sensory ganglionopathy is an autoimmune problem which causes peripheral neuropathy with sometimes random-appearing symptoms with balance, unsteady gait, numbness, tingling or a burning sensation in the face. Symptoms often start in the hands or feet and move toward the trunk and face.

A team from the Departments of Neurology, Neurophysiology, Neuropathology, and Gastroenterology at Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, UK conducted a retrospective observational case study on 409 patients with different types of peripheral neuropathies, including seventeen patients with sensory ganglionopathy and gluten sensitivity. Neurological issues are common in people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity.

The team reviewed data on 409 patients with different types of peripheral neuropathies. All of these patients had been followed for a number of years in dedicated gluten sensitivity/neurology and neuropathy clinics. Fifty-three of these patients (13%) showed clinical and neurophysiologic evidence of sensory ganglionopathy. Seventeen of these fifty-three patients (32%) showed positive blood screens for gluten sensitivity. The median age of those with gluten sensitivity was 67 years, with symptom onset starting at 58 years on average. Seven of those with positive blood screen evidence gluten sensitivity showed enteropathy upon biopsy.

Fifteen patients went on a gluten-free diet, resulting in stabilization of the neuropathy in eleven of the fifteen. The remaining four patients did not follow the gluten-free diet and their conditions worsened, as did the two patients who declined dietary treatment. Autopsy tissue from three patients showed inflammation in the dorsal root ganglia with degeneration of the posterior columns of the spinal cord.

These results led the team to conclude that sensory ganglionopathy can result from gluten sensitivity and may respond positively to a strict gluten-free diet.

Courtesy of

Sensory ganglionopathy due to gluten sensitivity M. Hadjivassiliou, MD, D.G. Rao, MD, S.B. Wharton, PhD, D.S. Sanders, MD, R.A. Grünewald, DPhil and A.G.B. Davies-Jones, MD Neurology September 2010

October 2011.


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