American Journal of Medicine, internal medicine, medicine, health, healthy lifestyles, cancer, heart disease, drugs

Delay in Diagnosis of Celiac Disease in Patients Without Gastrointestinal Complaints

cartoon of wheat in red x over stomach

The purpose of our study is to investigate the delay in diagnosis of patients with biopsy-proven celiac disease in those who present with gastrointestinal complaints vs nongastrointestinal complaints at our tertiary care center. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects approximately 1% of the population worldwide. Celiac disease can have variable clinical presentations; it can be characterized by predominately gastrointestinal symptoms, or it may present without any gastrointestinal symptoms.


We retrospectively reviewed the charts of 687 adult patients who carried the diagnosis of celiac disease. Patients included had biopsy-proven celiac disease and were categorized based on presence or absence of gastrointestinal symptoms prior to their diagnosis.


There were 101 patients with biopsy-proven celiac disease that met inclusion criteria. Fifty-two patients presented with gastrointestinal symptoms and 49 had nongastrointestinal complaints. Results from Mann-Whitney statistical analysis showed a median delay in diagnosis of 2.3 months for the gastrointestinal symptoms group and 42 months for the nongastrointestinal group (P <.001); 43.2% of patients with nongastrointestinal symptoms had abnormal thyroid-stimulating hormone, as opposed to 15.5% in the gastrointestinal symptom group (P = .004). Of patients with nongastrointestinal symptoms, 69.4% had anemia, compared with 11.5% of the gastrointestinal symptom group (P<.001). The majority of patients in the nongastrointestinal symptom group, 68%, were noted to have abnormal bone density scans, compared with 41% in the gastrointestinal symptom group. No sex differences were noted on chi-squared analysis between the 2 groups (P = .997).


Although there is growing awareness of celiac disease, the delay in diagnosis for patients without gastrointestinal symptoms remains prolonged, with an average delay of 3.5 years.

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-Marco A. Paez, MD, Anna Maria Gramelspacher, MD, James Sinacore, PhD, Laura Winterfield, MD, Mukund Venu, MD

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

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