Celiac.com 03/19/2018 - Celiac disease can sometimes have vague or atypical symptoms, which can delay or prevent proper diagnosis. For elderly celiac patients, such delays may prevent them from adopting a gluten free diet that can dramatically improve their quality of life.
A team of researchers recently set out to review the occurrence, clinical features, diagnosis and management in celiac patients detected later in life. The research team included P Collin, A Vilppula, L Luostarinen, GKT Holmes, and K Kaukinen. They are variously affiliated with the Department of Gastroenterology and Alimentary Tract Surgery, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland; the University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland; the Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Neuroscience, HUS Medical Imaging Centre, University of Helsinki, Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland; the Päijät-Häme Central Hospital, Lahti, Finland; the Department of Gastroenterology, the Royal Derby Hospital, Derby, UK; and with the Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Life-Sciences, Tampere University Hospital, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.
The team found that one in four patients diagnosed with celiac disease are aged 60 years or over, and one if five patients are 65 years or over. About 4% of celiac patients are diagnosed at 80 years or above. Around 60% of cases in the elderly remain undetected, mainly due to an non-gastrointestinal symptoms, or the absence of classical symptoms. Common symptoms in these people include: tiredness, indigestion, reduced appetite.
The sooner elderly patients are diagnosed, the sooner they can begin to follow a gluten free diet, which leads to the resolution of symptoms and improvement in quality of life in over 90% of patients.
It is not uncommon for elderly people to suffer from celiac disease, and to be diagnosed with later in life. It is also not uncommon for diagnosis to take years. This study shows that it is important do diagnose elderly people quickly and accurately, so they may begin to enjoy the full benefits of a gluten-free diet.