Celiac disease diagnosed in the elderly

J Clin Gastroenterol. 2008 Jan;42(1):59-61. doi: 10.1097/01.mcg.0000247995.12087.7b.


Background and aims: In the past 20 years, a growing proportion of new cases of celiac disease (CD) are diagnosed in adults and in patients with extraintestinal manifestations. Our understanding of the extremely wide spectra of manifestations and the profound effects on elderly patients is improving. Nevertheless, CD is still underdiagnosed in elderly patients. In this study, we describe a case series of CD patients diagnosed after the age of 60.

Methods: A retrospective chart review was preformed in cases of CD diagnosed after the age of 60. Patients were included if they had positive serology and histologic findings compatible with CD. Eligible patients were reinterviewed, and demographic, clinical, and laboratory information were recorded.

Results: During the study period, 7 patients with CD diagnosed after the age of 60 were identified. The most common presenting findings were weight loss, iron deficiency anemia, and diarrhea. Two patients suffered from severe early osteoperosis and 2 additional patients had elevated liver function tests. Neurologic manifestation was suspected in 3 cases. Two female patients presented with cognitive decline that was attributed to Alzheimer dementia but ameliorated after the initiation of gluten-free diet. The third patient had peripheral neuropathy that completely resolved after the initiation of gluten-free diet. Median lag in diagnosis was 8 years. Diet treatment led to complete resolution of symptoms in most cases and a significant weight gain (median 7.75 kg, range 5 to 11). One patient developed a fatal intestinal T-cell lymphoma.

Conclusions: In this case series, we have described several cases of CD in patients over the age of 60 with a varied spectrum of manifestations. We have also found a significant lag in diagnosis and treatment. We believe that it is important to promote the identification of CD as a possible culprit in varied clinical conditions in the elderly population.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diet therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / pathology
  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis*
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy
  • Diarrhea / pathology
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Glutens
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diet therapy
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Weight Loss


  • Glutens