Undiagnosed Celiac Disease Has Economic Impact
Celiac disease (CD) is often misdiagnosed because of a lack of awareness, says a Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center study. As a result, an unwarranted amount of money is spent every year on medically unnecessary tests performed on patients with the autoimmune disorder.
About one out of every 133 Americans has celiac disease, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, but a lack of awareness may result in numerous office visits for a patient who presents with telltale symptoms, such as weight loss, anemia, and stomach pain. Often, physicians order unnecessary and expensive tests, when all that is needed is a simple blood test and a change in diet.
“We now have evidence that the increased awareness and diagnosis of celiac disease would benefit not only the patients but would result in health care cost savings,” said Peter HR Green, M.D., professor of clinical medicine and director at Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center.
The Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center’s study demonstrates the economic benefit of diagnosing this little-known disease early on.
“There needs to be greater physician education in the various mode of presentation and manifestations of celiac disease and more use of the widely available screening blood tests that detect the disease,” said Dr. Green.
Blood screening tests for ages 2 and up include:
- Endomysial antibody (EMA-IgA)
- Tissue transglutaminase antibody (tTG-IgA/IgG)
- Anti-gliadin antibody (AGA-IgG, AGA-IgA)
- Total serum IgA
Celiac disease is a lifelong digestive disorder with no known cause or cure that affects both children and adults. People with CD cannot tolerate gluten—a component found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. CD is a genetic disease that, if ignored, can lead to other health problems; therefore, the Celiac Disease Foundation recommends family members of a diagnosed celiac also be tested, even if asymptomatic.
Note that blood tests only screen for risk; they cannot confirm if a patient has CD. The true test is whether a patient’s symptoms disappear after maintaining a gluten-free diet.
The Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center study is published in the Journal of Insurance Medicine (subscription required).