Background: The diagnosis of coeliac disease is easily overlooked as patients can present with mild or atypical symptoms, or the condition can even be clinically silent. Our aim was to detect coeliac disease patients with such atypical or no symptoms as well as those with typical features.
Methods: The incidence of adult coeliac disease in Tampere was calculated from 1975 to 1994 and the prevalence as of 31 December 1994. Open-access endoscopy was available for general practitioners, and small-bowel biopsy was done routinely. Serologic screening was applied to patients with an increased risk of coeliac disease.
Results: The incidence of coeliac disease increased tenfold, and the prevalence was 270 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1994. Twenty per cent were found by serologic screening and 10% as a result of routine biopsy; 24% had dermatitis herpetiformis.
Conclusions: Our diagnostic approach gave a coeliac prevalence similar to that found in population screening studies. One-third had silent coeliac disease.