Researchers, who publish their results in JAMA Pediatrics, say their findings suggest all children with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) should be screened for celiac disease.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, around 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed and at risk for long-term health obstacles due to celiac disease.
The condition is hereditary, and individuals with a parent, child or sibling with celiac disease have a 1 in 10 risk of developing it. If left untreated, it can lead to type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, dermatitis herpetiformis, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage, neurological conditions and intestinal cancer.
Though previous studies have shown an increased prevalence of celiac disease in adult patients with IBS, the researchers from this latest study say this link has not been widely proven in children.
After performing blood tests on all the children and classifying their conditions, the researchers found that 270 of them had IBS, 201 had functional dyspepsia, 311 had functional abdominal pain and 210 were taken out of the study because they had some other disorder not related to abdominal pain.
Results showed that 4.4% of the children with IBS tested positive for celiac disease, compared with only 1% of those with functional dyspepsia and 0.3% of those with functional abdominal pain. And the researchers say the prevalence of celiac disease among children with IBS is four times higher than the general child population.
In the conclusion to their study, the team writes: “The identification of IBS as a high-risk condition for celiac disease might be of help in pediatric primary care because it might have become routine to test for celiac disease indiscriminately in all children with recurrent abdominal pain, although our finding suggests that the screening should be extended only to those with IBS.”