Sprue (Coeliac Disease) and Seizure Activity

What is coeliac disease?

This is a malabsorption condition in which there is atrophy of the villi in the small intestine, leading to loss of calcium and sodium. Recently described are the cerebral calcifications and seizures that are associated with the condition. Several recent reports have described convulsions in patients with celiac disease, and in some, folic acid deficiency and brain calcifications. Treatment of the hypocalcemia results in cessation of seizures but the abnormalities in the brain persist on electroencephalographic studies.

Why is this important to divers?

Epilepsy or any kind of seizure activity, loss of consciousness or functional activity is inimical to scuba diving. Divers with this diagnosis or people with coeliac disease who wish to undertake diving certification should be checked for subclinical cerebral abnormalities with EEG studies, cerebral imaging studies and blood studies for low calcium and sodium. If they are found to have these problems, they should not undertake to dive.


Celiac disease, bilateral occipital calcifications and intractable epilepsy: mechanisms of seizure origin
Epilepsia. 1998 Mar;39(3):300-6.


Ernest S. Campbell, M.D., FACS

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