U.S. Lags Behind Europe in Celiac Disease Knowledge

Did you know that 1 in 133 people in the U.S has celiac disease? (Archives of Internal Medicine, published 10 February 2003)

Unfortunately, only about 1 out of every 4,700 Americans has been diagnosed, which means 97% of cases go undetected in our country. Why is this? Dr. Alessio Fassano, the Director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland, points to lack of research by medical professionals in the United States.

"Equal recognition of celiac disease has been frustratingly slow to reach the U.S," says a colleague of Dr. Fassano, Dr. Guandalini, who trained in Italy. "In Europe, it typically takes a few weeks to go from the first symptoms to a diagnosis. In the U.S., the average lag time between onset and diagnosis is 11 years." If ever.

In the mid-1970s, European scientists spearheaded a task force to determine celiac disease prevalence and presentation. These efforts allowed for both a greater understanding and management of the disease. In the United States, very few medical doctors attempt to understand the disease or its wide-spread implications. Unless your endocrinologist or pathologist knows about celiac disease, the diagnosis could remain a mystery for years.