Milder Celiac Disease Being Diagnosed Now

A study (Kivela L et al. J Pediatr 2015; 167: 1109-15) over a period of 48 years from Finland provides some hard data regarding the changing presentation of celiac disease.

Here are the key points;

  • Age at diagnosis has increased from a median of 4.3 years before 1980 to 7.6 years and 9.0 years in later periods.
  • Poor growth has decreased.  Among the 46 children diagnosed prior to 1980, poor growth occurred in 66% whereas 2010-2013: 23% had poor growth (had 14% were overweight or obese)
  • Severity of small-bowel mucosal damage was milder (Figure 1 D).  Among those with gastrointestinal presentation, total villous atrophy also declined from “61-62% to 18-22% (P=.001).”

Why is the presentation changing? There are increased “proportions of screen-detected and asymptomatic children…[this has] increased over 6-fold and simultaneously gastrointestinal symptoms …decreased.”  While there are improved diagnostic methods and increased knowledge, there has also been a “well-defined increase in the true prevalence of celiac disease.”

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