Late diagnosis of celiac disease can have significant repercussions on patients’ health, so it is crucial to identify it as soon as possible. It is known that the symptoms of the disease can vary widely, making detection sometimes difficult. Some patients experience digestive symptoms; however, they can also manifest extra-digestive symptoms.
It is concerning that celiac disease is underdiagnosed, as the patient’s well-being could easily be restored by eliminating gluten consumption from the diet. Studies have revealed that for every diagnosed celiac patient, there are between 5 and 10 undiagnosed patients. This is partly because some individuals may present atypical symptoms or even be asymptomatic, which hinders their detection. As a result, many patients can go for years without knowing they have the disease, leading to a significant delay in initiating proper treatment.
It is estimated that the time elapsed from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis can exceed 10 years in some cases. Late diagnosis is divided between the period it takes for the patient to identify the symptoms and seek medical attention, and the time it takes for the doctor to diagnose the patient from the initial visit.
Late diagnosis of celiac disease not only affects asymptomatic patients but also has a negative impact on undiagnosed symptomatic patients. These patients often make more frequent use of healthcare services and may require pharmacological treatments to address those symptoms, increasing costs for both the healthcare system and the patients themselves.
It is necessary to improve the understanding of celiac disease as a common health problem, and it is crucial to raise awareness about the disease among both patients and healthcare professionals, so they acquire a greater knowledge of the disease’s diversity and avoid misinterpreting symptoms or attributing them to other conditions. Additionally, active case finding should be intensified by conducting mass screening tests to detect the disease in high-risk groups.