Celiac disease is increasingly diagnosed in elderly people. This article reports on a series of people over 60 years of age diagnosed with this serious disease. The series was collected by reviewing previous records of a hospital.
The symptoms leading to diagnosis included weight loss, iron deficiency anemia, and diarrhea. Two women had decline in mental function thought to be due to Alzheimer dementia, which resolved on a gluten-free diet. Another woman had peripheral neuropathy which cleared on a gluten-free diet. The average duration of symptoms before diagnosis of celiac disease was 8 years, and most other symptoms resolved on a gluten-free diet.
CONCLUSION: There is a significant delay in the diagnosis of celiac disease in the elderly. Treatment resolves the symptoms–even severe neurologic symptoms. A gluten-free diet is an effective treatment for celiac disease.
NOTE: There is an average delay of diagnosis of celiac disease of 10 years in the United States. This is sufficient time for patients to develop significant nutritional deficiencies with serious symptoms. Nutritional deficiencies could have been the cause of the patient’s neurological symptoms.
A number of blood tests are available for diagnosis, and serum tissue transglutaminase antibody testing is reported to be the most accurate. Treatment of celiac disease is a completely gluten-free diet.
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