A study from University of Bologna, Italy, supports screening for celiac disease even among adults. Earlier detection could prevent complications of the disease.
Despite high prevalence of undiagnosed celiac in Western countries, the value of screening programs remains controversial. Benefits of early diagnosis must outweigh the cost and risk of widespread testing. Critics argue patients diagnosed before they are aware of symptoms may be less motivated to stick with the gluten-free diet. This could in turn cause medical complications later on.
This study found 90 percent of patients detected through screening stuck with the diet, the same percentage found in patients diagnosed after they were suspected of having celiac. Data came from health records of 750 adult patients diagnosed from 2004 to 2013.
Researchers found an important long-term health benefit. Screened patients had a significantly lower rate of bone disease: 31.3 percent compared to 46 percent in other patients. They were also less affected by anemia.
The authors advocate screening adults to help diagnose the large hidden population of celiac patients. Improved health and reduced medical costs later on would balance costs of testing.