Clinical Presentation in Children With Coeliac Disease in Central Europe

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2021 Apr 1;72(4):546-551. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000003015.


Objectives: During the past decades, there has been a shift in the clinical presentation of coeliac disease (CD) to nonclassical, oligosymptomatic, and asymptomatic forms. We assessed clinical presentation of CD in children and adolescents in Central Europe.

Methods: Paediatric gastroenterologists in 5 countries retrospectively reported data of their patients diagnosed with CD. Clinical presentation was analyzed and the differences among very young (<3 years) and older children and adolescents were studied.

Results: Data from 653 children and adolescents (median age 7 years 2 months; 63.9% girls) from Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Slovenia were available for the analysis. One fifth (N = 134) of all children were asymptomatic. In symptomatic children, the most common leading symptom was abdominal pain (33.3%), followed by growth retardation (13.7%) and diarrhoea (13.3%). The majority of symptomatic children (47.6%; N = 247) were polysymptomatic. Abdominal pain was the most common symptom in polysymptomatic (66.4%) as well as in monosymptomatic children (29.7%). Comparing clinical presentation of CD in very young children (younger than 3 years) with older children (3 years or older), we found that symptoms and signs of malabsorption were significantly more common in younger (P < 0.001), whereas abdominal pain and asymptomatic presentation were more common in older children and adolescents (both P < 0.001).

Conclusion: In children with CD, abdominal pain has become the most common symptom. However, in younger children, symptoms of malabsorption are still seen frequently. This raises a question about the underlying mechanism of observed change in clinical presentation in favour of nonclassical presentation and asymptomatic disease at certain age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Celiac Disease* / complications
  • Celiac Disease* / diagnosis
  • Celiac Disease* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Slovenia