Carpal Spasm in a Girl as Initial Presentation of Celiac Disease

A Case Report

Atifete Ramosaj-Morina; A. Keka-Sylaj; V. Hasbahta; A. Baloku-Zejnullahu; M. Azemi; R. Zunec


J Med Case Reports. 2017;11(252) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background Celiac disease is an immune-mediated disorder elicited by ingestion of gluten in genetically susceptible persons. This disorder is characterized by specific histological changes of the small intestine mucosa resulting in malabsorption. This case was written up as it was an unusual and dramatic presentation of celiac disease.

Case presentation We report the case of a 3-year-old Albanian girl who presented at our clinic with carpal spasms and hand paresthesia. A physical examination at admission revealed a relatively good general condition and body weight of 10.5 kg (10 percentile). Carpal spasms and paresthesias of her extremities were present. Neuromuscular irritability was demonstrated by positive Chvostek and Trousseau signs.

Blood tests showed severe hypocalcemia with a total serum calcium of 1.2 mmol/L (normal range 2.12 to 2.55 mmol/L), ionized calcium of 0.87 (normal range 1.11 to 1.30 mmol/L), and 24-hour urine calcium excretion of 9.16 mmol (normal range female <6.2 mmol/day).

Among other tests, screening for celiac disease was performed: antigliadin immunoglobulin A, anti-tissue transglutaminase, and anti-endomysial immunoglobulin A antibodies were positive. A duodenal biopsy revealed lymphocyte infiltration, crypt hyperplasia, and villous atrophy compatible with celiac disease grade IIIb according to the Marsh classification. Following the diagnosis of celiac disease, human leukocyte antigen typing was performed, giving a definite diagnosis of celiac disease. She was started on a gluten-free diet.

Due to failure to follow a gluten-free diet, episodes of carpal spasms appeared again. Unfortunately, at the age of 7 years she presents with delayed psychophysical development.

Conclusions Although hypocalcemia is a common finding in celiac disease, hypocalcemic carpal spasm is a rare initial manifestation of the disease. Therefore, the possibility of celiac disease should be considered in patients with repeated carpal spasms that seem unduly difficult to treat. This should be evaluated even in the absence of gastrointestinal symptoms since hypocalcemia and its manifestation may present as initial symptoms of celiac disease even in young children.