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Semin Gastrointest Dis. 2002 Oct;13(4):232-44.

Celiac sprue.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Celiac sprue, celiac disease, or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is a malabsorption disorder of the small intestine that occurs after ingestion of wheat gluten in genetically susceptible individuals. This disease is characterized by intestinal malabsorption associated with villous atrophy of the small intestinal mucosa, clinical and histological improvement after adherence to strict gluten free diet, and relapse when gluten is reintroduced. Celiac sprue has a high prevalence in Western Europe and North America where it is estimated to affect 1:120 to 1:300 individuals. The pathogenesis of celiac sprue is related to inappropriate intestinal T-cell activation in HLA-DQ2 positive individuals triggered by antigenic peptides from wheat gluten or prolamins from barley and rye. Although previously thought to be mainly a disease of childhood onset, the diagnosis is increasingly being made in adults. There are a wide variety of presentations, which range from asymptomatic forms to severe diarrhea, weight loss and nutritional deficiencies. Extraintestinal manifestations including anemia, osteopenia or neurological disorders and associated conditions such as diabetes or hypothyroidism are commonly present. The availability of highly sensitive and specific serologic markers has dramatically facilitated the diagnosis of celiac sprue. However, the demonstration of characteristic histological abnormalities in a biopsy specimen of the small intestine remains the mainstay of diagnosis. Treatment consists of life-long avoidance of dietary gluten to control symptoms and to prevent both immediate and long-term complications.

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