Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 63, Issue 6, pp 1384–1391 | Cite as

Diagnosis of Celiac Disease: Taking a Bite Out of the Controversy

  • Justine M. Turner


Celiac disease is a common autoimmune disorder of the small intestine, triggered by an immunological response to the gluten present in wheat, barley, and rye in individuals who are genetically at risk. A key to reducing the complications of this disease is early diagnosis, preferably in childhood, and consuming a lifelong gluten-free diet once diagnosis is confirmed. Yet, the diagnosis of celiac disease is often considerably delayed, exposing patients to needless suffering and morbidity. It is also difficult to confirm histologically if dietary gluten has been restricted prior to obtaining a diagnostic biopsy, a significant problem given the current growing popularity of gluten-free diets. Furthermore, failure to understand or follow current guidelines means physicians may recommend patients commence the gluten-free diet before initiating referral to a gastroenterologist. Finally, adding further confusion, pediatric guidelines in Europe support a diagnosis based on serology rather than on histology, whereas those based in North America do not. The purpose of this review is to discuss these issues and other controversies in the diagnosis of celiac disease and to consider ways to optimize diagnosis across the lifespan.


Celiac disease Serology Duodenal biopsy Anti-tissue transglutaminase Intraepithelial lymphocytes Gluten-free diet 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Department of PediatricsUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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