Case finding for celiac disease (CD) is becoming increasingly common practice and is conducted in a wide range of clinical situations ranging from the presence of gastrointestinal symptoms to failure to thrive in children, prolonged fatigue, unexpected weight loss and anemia. Case finding is also performed in associated conditions, such as autoimmune thyroid disease, dermatitis herpetiformis and type 1 diabetes, as well as in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, unexplained neuropsychiatric disorders and first-degree relatives of patients with diagnosed CD. This aggressive active case finding has dramatically changed the clinical characteristics of newly diagnosed patients. For instance, higher numbers of patients who present with extraintestinal symptoms are now being diagnosed with CD. Current recommendations state that due to a high risk for complications if the disease remains undiagnosed, patients with extraintestinal symptoms due to CD require appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Despite criticism regarding the cost-effectiveness of case finding in CD, such an aggressive approach has been considered cost-effective for high-risk patients. The diagnosis of CD among patients with extraintestinal symptoms requires a high degree of awareness of the clinical conditions that carry a high risk for underlying CD. Also, understanding the correct use of specific serology and duodenal histology is key for an appropriate diagnostic approach. Both procedures combined are able to confirm diagnosis in the vast majority of cases. However, in certain circumstances, serology and even duodenal histology cannot confirm or rule out CD. A common cause of negative IgA serology is IgA deficiency. For such eventuality, IgG-based serological tests can help confirm the diagnosis. Importantly, some histologically diagnosed cases still remain seronegative despite exclusion of IgA deficiency. On the other hand, duodenal histology may be normal despite the presence of CD-specific antibodies and active CD. This has been clearly demonstrated in some cases of untreated dermatitis herpetiformis, but may also be due to the patchy condition of CD or lesions that are not adequately recognized by nonexpert endoscopists and/or pathologists. The effectiveness of agluten-free diet depends on the clinical end point addressed. A good example is the outcome of bone loss. While risk for fracture normalizes after the first year of dietary treatment, bone parameters measured by densitometry may not be normalized in the long-term follow-up. Moreover, it is still unclear how far an early gluten-free diet will positively affect associated autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroiditis.
© 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel.