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Non-classical Symptoms Common for Vast Majority with Celiac Disease
Celiac.com 12/26/2014 - Celiac disease can have such a wide-ranging number of symptoms, ranging over so many parts of the body, that it can be hard for doctors seeking to make a diagnosis to even suspect celiac disease as an underlying cause in the first place.
A team of researchers set out to better understand the characteristics of celiac disease by looking at the findings in a large number of celiacs diagnosed in a single referral center, and to using clear definitions of the clinical, serological and histopathological aspects of celiac disease to get a better picture of how the disease presents itself.
The research team included Umberto Volta, Giacomo Caio, Vincenzo Stanghellini and Roberto De Giorgio of the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences at the University of Bologna’s S. Orsola-Malpighi Hospital, in Bologna, Italy.
For their study, their team looked at data on celiac patients admitted to S. Orsola-Malpighi Hospital from January 1998 to December 2012. They found a total of 770 patients ranging from 18 to 78 years, averaging 36 years old. A total of 599 patients were female.
The team broke celiac disease down into three types: The first type, classical, in which patients present with malabsorption syndrome. The second type, non-classical, in which patients experience extraintestinal and/or gastrointestinal symptoms other than diarrhea. The third type, subclinical, with no visible symptoms.
A total of 610 patients (79%) showed clear physical symptoms when they were diagnosed, while 160 celiacs showed a subclinical phenotype.
In the symptomatic group 66% of celiacs were non-classical, that is, they experienced extraintestinal and/or gastrointestinal symptoms other than diarrhea.
Only 34% of patients in the symptomatic group showed classical malabsorption syndrome.
The team found that just 27% of the non-classically symptomatic group complained of diarrhea, while other gastrointestinal manifestations included bloating (20%), aphthous stomatitis (18%), alternating bowel habit (15%), constipation (13%) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (12%). Extraintestinal manifestations included osteopenia/osteoporosis (52%), anemia (34%), cryptogenic hypertransaminasemia (29%) and recurrent miscarriages (12%).
A large proportion of patients showed autoimmune disorders, such as autoimmune thyroiditis (26.3%), dermatitis herpetiformis (4%) and diabetes mellitus type 1 (3%). Complicated celiac disease was very rare.
This study demonstrates that the clinical profile of celiac disease has changed over time, and now features much more non-classical and subclinical phenotypes.
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Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.View all articles by Jefferson Adams