Background: Celiac disease is a chronic disease characterized by intolerance to gluten. It is considered a public health problem affecting about 1% of Western populations, but, with most cases still undiagnosed. A glutenfree diet is the only effective treatment for the disease.
Objectives: To investigate the burden of celiac disease and the value of having it diagnosed. Additionally, the implications for a potential future celiac disease mass screening are discussed.
Methods: A questionnaire was sent during 2009 to 1,560 randomly selected adult members of the Swedish Society for Coeliacs, in equal-sized age- and sex strata, and 1,031 (66%) responded. Members were asked about symptoms, health-related quality of life as measured by EQ-5D, and health care consumption during the year prior to diagnosis and during the past year. They were also asked about the delay in having their celiac disease diagnosed and the appearance of other immune-mediated diseases. A school-based celiac disease screening of 12-year-olds was performed during 2005-2006. After blood sampling the 7,567 participating children and their parents received a questionnaire including the EQ-5D instrument in order to measure the child’s health-related quality of life. Comparisons were made between children with screening-detected celiac disease, those with previously diagnosed disease and those without the disease. Parents were asked about their willingness to pay for a celiac disease screening of their child, which was compared with the actual cost of a screening.
Results: Adult celiac disease patients had a poorer health-related quality of life than the general population, and a high prevalence of symptoms before celiac disease diagnosis. The mean delay from symptoms to diagnosis was 9.7 years. After initiated treatment with a gluten-free diet, health-related quality of life was improved to the level of the general population, and symptom relief and reduction in health care consumption were also reported. For children, health-related quality of life was similar across groups. The average cost per child for a screening was 47 EUR. Parents’ mean willingness to pay for a screening was 79 EUR, median 10 EUR.
Conclusion: The delay in celiac disease diagnosis is long, and treatment with a gluten-free diet substantially improved health for clinically detected cases. For screening-detected celiac disease the health benefits are still uncertain. A mass screening might nevertheless be justified to avoid the burden of living with undiagnosed disease, and parents’ willingness to pay indicates that performing it in childhood might be economically motivated. However, as both the cost-effectiveness of a screening and the short- and long term health benefits for screening-detected cases have not yet been sufficiently investigated, it is too early to make a recommendation for a celiac disease mass screening.
Umeå: Umeå Universitet , 2012. , 68 p.