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Epidemiology, pathogenesis, and clinical manifestations of celiac disease in children

Ivor D Hill, MD
Section Editor
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD


Celiac disease, also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy is an immune-mediated inflammatory disease of the small intestine caused by sensitivity to dietary gluten and related proteins in genetically predisposed individuals. It differs from food allergies (including wheat allergy), which are mediated by immunoglobulin E (IgE) or immunoglobulin G (IgG). The disorder is common, occurring in 0.5 to 1 percent of the general population in most countries [1].

The grains that contain the triggering proteins are wheat, barley, and rye; there is some controversy as to whether oats also can cause the disease. The small intestinal mucosa improves morphologically when treated with a gluten-free diet and relapses when gluten is reintroduced. In a study from an era in which celiac disease was not treated, mortality was 12 percent [2]. The appropriate treatment is a gluten-free diet for life, which results in complete resolution of symptoms for most individuals.

The epidemiology, pathogenesis, and clinical manifestations of celiac disease are reviewed here. Other aspects of celiac disease in children are discussed in the following topic reviews:

(See "Diagnosis of celiac disease in children".)

(See "Management of celiac disease in children".)


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