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Spouses of celiac disease patients at higher risk for autoimmune disease

Lana Bandoim's picture

A new study has revealed a surprising finding for the spouses of celiac disease patients. Researchers have discovered that the spouses are at a higher risk of developing nonceliac autoimmune disease. Previous studies have focused on family members who are genetically related to the celiac disease patients, but the new research expands on this concept.


If your husband or wife has celiac disease, then you are at a higher risk of developing nonceliac autoimmune disease. The study, published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, looked at spouses and relatives of patients with celiac disease. The risk is higher for both close relatives and spouses, but researchers believe several factors are responsible. In the study, nonceliac autoimmune diseases included Crohn's disease, type 1 diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis and ulcerative colitis. In addition to 430,942 controls, the study included 84,000 first-degree relatives such as fathers, mothers, siblings and offspring.

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Researchers found that close relatives and spouses developed nonceliac autoimmune diseases at a higher rate than the control group. Although previous studies have blamed genetics for first-degree relatives developing autoimmune disorders, they have not examined why spouses who are not genetically related to the celiac disease patients are also at a higher risk. Researchers propose that environmental factors and greater awareness about autoimmune disorders may play a role.

Researchers have suggested that celiac disease patients may share microbiomes with their spouses and put them at a higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases. They also suggest that spouses are more likely to seek treatment and get a diagnosis because they live with celiac disease patients and are more aware of the problems of autoimmune diseases. They may be more educated than the rest of the population about this type of illness.

Read more about celiac disease:
Doctors ignore proper celiac disease diagnosis and care
Celiac disease tripled in children in last 20 years