Background: The prevalence of celiac disease (CD) in children with diabetes mellitus type 1 (DM) is significantly higher than in the nondiabetic population. Most patients with DM and associated CD do not experience typical gastrointestinal symptoms of CD. There is no agreement on the necessity of screening and management of silent CD for patients with DM or on the time scale for screening. Only few data on follow-up evaluation of children with DM and CD-related antibodies are available.
Methods: One hundred fifty-seven patients with DM (mean age, 14.8 years; range, 4-21 years; male, 83) were screened with endomysial antibodies (EMA) between 1993 and 2001. A follow-up period of at least 3 years, with at least 2 EMA measurements, was possible. Group 1 comprised 37 patients whose first measurement was at the onset of DM. Group 2 comprised 120 patients whose first measurement was during the course of the disease. In patients with positive EMA, small bowel biopsy was performed. Thyroid peroxidase (TPO), thyroglobulin (TgA), glutamate decarboxylase (GAD), antiinsulin (IAA), and islet cell antibodies (IA2) were measured in all patients.
Results: EMA was positive in 16 patients, in 5 at onset of DM and in 11 during the course of DM (mean duration, 33.6 months; range, 11-105 months). Biopsy results showed normal mucosa in seven patients, increased intraepithelial lymphocyte counts in one, and flat mucosa in eight. There was no significant difference between EMA-positive and EMA-negative patients regarding height, weight, HbA1c level, frequency of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, TPO, TgA, GAD, IAA, or IA2.
Conclusion: This study emphasizes the high prevalence of CD in patients with DM. Although several patients already had positive EMA titers at the onset of DM, seroconversion may also occur during the course of the disease. Screening for CD with EMA or tissue transglutaminase should be included in the initial investigation of DM, but should also be repeated over time to detect late seroconversion.