Aim To review the relationship between coeliac disease and Type 1 diabetes mellitus with emphasis on prevalence of coeliac disease, presentation and implications for screening.
Methods Papers collected over many years by the author have been included in the review and a literature search employing Medline was undertaken to August 2000. Search words used were coeliac disease and diabetes mellitus.
Results Twenty papers exploring the prevalence of coeliac disease by serological screening of Type 1 diabetes in children, eight in adults and two including both groups were found. An additional 48 papers are included and relate to serological screening tests for coeliac disease, expressions and complications of coeliac disease, the value of GFD and the genetics of the two conditions. Unless formal screening studies are undertaken coeliac disease will not be diagnosed because patients are asymptomatic, have atypical symptoms or even in those with symptoms the diagnosis is overlooked. Based on small bowel biopsy, diagnosis the prevalence of coeliac disease in Type 1 diabetes in children is 1:6 to 1:103 and in adults 1:16 to 1:76. Patients may improve following the start of a gluten-free diet (GFD) in terms of symptoms, growth in children, serum antibody levels, haematological and biochemical indices, morphology of the small intestinal mucosa and control of diabetes.
Conclusion Coeliac disease commonly occurs in Type 1 diabetes. It is recommended that screening for coeliac disease should be part of the routine investigation and offered to all patients because of the high prevalence and the potential benefits of treatment with a GFD. This includes control of symptoms, stabilization of diabetes and prevention of complications associated with coeliac disease. The cost per patient diagnosed with coeliac disease from the existing population with Type 1 diabetes would be £860 and for those newly arising £950.