Background: Celiac disease may emerge at any age, but little is known of its appearance in elderly people. We evaluated the prevalence of the condition in individuals over 55 years of age, and determined the incidence of biopsy-proven celiac disease (CDb) and celiac disease including seropositive subjects for anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies (CDb+s).
Methods: The study based on prevalence figures in 2815 randomly selected subjects who had undergone a clinical examination and serologic screening for celiac disease in 2002. A second screening in the same population was carried out in 2005, comprising now 2216 individuals. Positive tissue transglutaminase antibodies were confirmed with small bowel biopsy.
Results: Within three years the prevalence of CDb increased from 2.13 to 2.34%, and that of CDb+s from 2.45 to 2.70%. Five new cases were found among patients previously seronegative; two had minor abdominal symptoms and three were asymptomatic. The incidence of celiac disease in 2002-2005 was 0.23%, giving an annual incidence of 0.08% in this population.
Conclusion: The prevalence of celiac disease was high in elderly people, but the symptoms were subtle. Repeated screening detected five biopsy-proven cases in three years, indicating that the disorder may develop even in the elderly. Increased alertness to the disorder is therefore warranted.