Practical considerations for the identification and follow-up of children with celiac disease
Celiac disease is an immune-mediated enteropathy affecting 0.5% to 1% of children and is induced by dietary gluten in susceptible individuals carrying the human leukocyte antigen DQ2 or DQ8 heterodimer. If serological screening is positive or if a patient displays suggestive symptoms, an endoscopic biopsy of the distal duodenum is required to confirm the diagnosis. Symptoms of celiac disease are often mild or absent. Overt malabsorption occurs in only 2% to 10% of children. Individuals with a higher risk of developing celiac disease, including first-degree relatives of affected patients and children with type I diabetes, Turner syndrome, Williams syndrome or Down syndrome, should be offered screening for celiac disease along with a discussion of the implications. If serological testing is negative, a high index of suspicion should remain if malabsorption, iron deficiency or osteopenia is present. Also, immunoglobulin A deficiency should be excluded. At-risk individuals should undergo serial serological screening. Lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet is the only treatment. If left untreated, symptomatic children with celiac disease carry an increased risk of developing osteoporosis and have a greater lifetime risk of cancer. The long-term outcome of undiagnosed or untreated asymptomatic individuals is less clear.