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Celiac disease can mimic a brain tumor

When an adolescent girl suffering from headaches and blurred vision seeks medical care, doctors may not immediately think of celiac disease as a cause -- but the immune disorder should be a consideration. A pediatrician specializing in gastroenterology at Upstate Golisano Children‘s Hospital explains why in an article published this summer in the journal Case Reports in Gastroenterology.

Mirza Beg. MD

Mirza Beg. MD

Mirza Beg, MD, writes about a girl who suffered neurological symptoms for a year until the headaches and blurry vision worsened and she sought emergency treatment. She had developed “pseudotumor cerebri,” a condition in which the pressure inside her skull increased for no obvious reason, causing symptoms that mimic those of a brain tumor.

She underwent a series of medical tests that eventually included a biopsy of her small intestine. After she was diagnosed with celiac disease and began following a gluten-free diet, the girl‘s headaches and blurry vision went away. So did the pressure inside her skull.

Celiac disease is a challenge to diagnose, Beg acknowledges. Though its hallmark is a gastrointestinal tract that is sensitive to gluten, celiac disease can also cause psychiatric symptoms and affect the skin and reproductive organs, in addition to causing headaches, blurry vision and – in rare instances – fake brain tumors.

Layout 1This article appears in the fall 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.