Objective: The majority of patients with coeliac disease remain undetected world-wide. Finland has aimed at a high detection rate by training health personnel, and has advocated serologic screening for known coeliac disease risk groups. The purpose here was to assess whether this approach has been effective in clinical practice.
Material and methods: The study was based on a prospective database of new coeliac patients aged 16 years or more, to whom the Social Insurance Institution had paid monthly compensation for the additional cost of maintaining a gluten-free diet since 2002. To obtain this compensation the diagnostic criteria for coeliac disease, including biopsy findings, had to be attested in a statement from a physician. The incidence and prevalence rates were calculated until the end of 2006. The total population aged 16 years or more was 4.31 million.
Results: In 2004-06, a total of 5020 persons (64% female) receiving a new dietary grant were identified through the database. The mean annual incidence of proven coeliac disease was thus 39 per 100,000 individuals. Altogether, 23,553 persons received the dietary grant. This gives a nation-wide point prevalence of adult coeliac disease of 0.55% (0.70% F, 0.38% M). There was a regional variation from 33 to 49 per 100,000 in the annual incidence and from 0.41% to 0.72% in the prevalence of coeliac disease.
Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge, these figures for proven coeliac disease are the highest reported. Increased alertness to the condition and active case finding has made this efficient diagnostics possible.