Celiac disease natural history, complications and prognosis
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The symptoms of celiac disease usually develop in the first decade of life, and start with features suggestive of malabsorption such as abdominal pain and distension, diarrhea, malnutrition, and failure to thrive within the first few years of life. The classic malabsorption manifestation of disease is just the tip of the iceberg, and other more specific manifestations are invisible below the waterline. Natural history of celiac disease is not completely understood but if left untreated it may result in serious complications, such as malignancy. Complications of celiac disease may include vitamin deficiencies, essential nutrient deficiencies, enamel hypoplasia, neurological abnormalities, gastrointestinal malignancies, hyposplenism, ulcerative jejunitis, and infertility. The prognosis may vary depending upon the extent of the celiac disease at the time of diagnosis and also the extent of complications and dietary deficiencies. However, the prognosis is generally regarded as good. The presence of gastrointestinal malignancies is associated with a particularly poor prognosis among patients with celiac disease.
Natural History, Complications, and Prognosis
The symptoms of celiac disease usually develop in the firs decade of life, and start with symptoms suggestive of malabsorption such as pain and distension, diarrhea, malnutrition, and failure to thrive within the first few years of life. These are classical celiac disease findings also known as “celiac disease iceberg” manifestations. Clinical presentations in celiac disease have been described as an iceberg model. Based on the iceberg model of celiac disease, the classic malabsorption manifestation of disease is just the tip of the iceberg, and other more specific manifestations are invisible below the waterline. According to iceberg model of celiac disease, the traditional method of diagnosing celiac disease based on malnutrition manifestations is unreliable due to different disease variation with more subtle manifestations that may be unrecognized. 
Most people with either diagnosed or undiagnosed celiac disease have only minor symptoms that are more inconvenient than life threatening. The few data available regarding quality of life of patients with celiac disease suggest that health‐related quality of life and psychological general well‐being are poor in undiagnosed patients, and improve with treatment in men but not significantly in women. The frequency of psychiatric disorders are also high among celiac disease patients, and the severity of depression is associated with the duration of disease left without treatment. A questionnaire study in USA reported a mean duration of depression and anxiety symptoms for 11 years before the diagnosis of celiac disease. The mentioned depression was reported to get improved in 77% of cases after treatment. A high prevalence of depression was well documented in patients with celiac disease.
The adult patients with celiac disease are at higher risk of:
- Mortality from malignancy especially lymphomas in patients aged 45-65
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Natural history of celiac disease variations is not completely understood. Particularly, the long-term risk of complications in patients who are asymptomatic or silent is not available. Undiagnosed celiac disease has been shown to be associated with a nearly 4-fold increased risk of death compared with asymptomatic patients whom are negative for serologic evidence of celiac disease.
As the risk of malignancy in celiac disease exist, it is recommended to asymptomatic and silent patients should patients to comply with a gluten-free diet. The majority of patients with celiac disease respond to a gluten-free diet. The most common reason for a lack of response are poor compliance or inadvertent gluten ingestion.
|Vitamine deficiencies||Vitamin K deficiency|
|Vitamin B12 deficiency||
|Vitamin D deficiency|
|Micronutrient deficiencies||Calcium deficiency|
|Gastrointestinal malignancies||Small bowel lymphoma|
- Depending on the extent of the celiac disease at the time of diagnosis and also extent of complications and diet complication, the prognosis may vary. However, the prognosis is generally regarded as good.
- People with celiac disease are at higher risk of mortality than the general population. Although people with celiac disease had an increased risk of gastrointestinal and lymphoproliferative malignancies compared with the general population, it has been shown that they are in a lower risk of breast or lung cancer.
- The presence of gastrointestinal malignancies is associated with a particularly poor prognosis among patients with celiac disease.
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