Though both conditions mean that a person is required to avoid gluten, celiac disease and a wheat allergy are different from each other. While the former is an autoimmune disorder, the latter is an allergy. There are several points of difference here:
With an allergy, the body perceives certain (usually harmless) external stimuli as harmful, and an allergic response is triggered. With an autoimmune disorder, the body perceives a part of the body itself as being a harmful foreign substance and turns upon itself.
In celiac disease, the intake of gluten triggers a response wherein immunoglobulins of the body attack the villi which are part of the small intestine. The villi are part of the body’s normal tissue which are mistaken for a foreign substance.
Also one can never outgrow celiac disease, whereas one can in some cases outgrow a wheat allergy. Celiac disease may occur in infancy and may persist through life.
The distinction between celiac disease and a wheat allergy is an important one, because celiac disease can result in long term damage of the body.
Problems such as anemia, nutritional deficiencies, mal-absorption and osteoporosis could stem from it. There is also greater risk of developing liver disease, diabetes and thyroid disease as well as developing gastrointestinal lymphomas.