The clinical spectrum of celiac disease has widened over the past decades. The condition is no longer a severe malabsorption syndrome. Instead, a typical celiac disease patient today has merely mild abdominal symptoms. Malabsorption can be subclinical or absent, and there is usually only moderate, if any, loss of weight. Simultaneously, the current prevalence has increased from 1:1,000 to 1:300 inhabitants, or even higher. Clinically silent celiac disease cases are being detected in increasing numbers since the introduction and widespread use of serologic screening tests. Symptoms of celiac disease can appear outside the intestine, a typical example being dermatitis herpetiformis. Gluten intolerance is no longer limited to overt villous atrophy. Inflammation without villous damage may be observed in genetically susceptible individuals. The term latent celiac disease is applied in situations where the patient has normal villous architecture while on a gluten-containing diet, but later develops small bowel villous atrophy compatible with celiac disease.
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