Background: Coeliac disease patients show a number of gastrointestinal motor abnormalities, including a decrease in lower oesophageal sphincter pressure. The prevalence of endoscopic oesophagitis in these subjects however is unknown.
Aim: To evaluate whether untreated adult coeliac patients had an increased prevalence of reflux oesophagitis and, if so, to assess whether a gluten free diet exerted any beneficial effect on gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) symptoms.
Patients and methods: We retrospectively studied 205 coeliac patients (females/males 153/52, median age 32 years) who underwent endoscopy for duodenal biopsy and 400 non-coeliac subjects (females/males 244/156, median age 37 years) referred for endoscopy for upper gastrointestinal symptoms. Each patient was given a questionnaire for evaluation of GORD symptoms prior to and 4-12 months after endoscopy. Coeliac patients were given a gluten free diet. Oesophagitis patients of both groups, following an eight week course of omeprazole, were re-evaluated for GORD symptoms at four month intervals up to one year. Significance of differences was assessed by Fisher's exact test.
Results: Oesophagitis was present in 39/205 (19%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 13.8-25.0%) coeliac patients and in 32/400 (8%, 95% CI 5.5-11.1%) dyspeptic subjects. At the one year follow up, GORD symptoms relapsed in 10/39 (25.6%, 95% CI 13-42.1%) coeliacs with oesophagitis and in 23/32 (71.8%, 95% CI 53.2-86.2%) non-coeliac subjects with oesophagitis.
Conclusion: Coeliac patients have a high prevalence of reflux oesophagitis. That a gluten free diet significantly decreased the relapse rate of GORD symptoms suggests that coeliac disease may represent a risk factor for development of reflux oesophagitis.