Celiac disease is a unique autoimmune disorder, unique because the environmental precipitant is known. The disorder was previously called celiac sprue, based on the Dutch word sprue, which was used to describe a disease similar to tropical sprue that is characterized by diarrhea, emaciation, aphthous stomatitis, and malabsorption. Celiac disease is precipitated, in genetically predisposed persons, by the ingestion of gluten, the major storage protein of wheat and similar grains.Originally considered a rare malabsorption syndrome of childhood, celiac disease is now recognized as a common condition that may be diagnosed at any age and that affects many organ systems. The therapy for the disease is a gluten-free diet; however, the response to therapy is poor in up to 30% of patients, and dietary nonadherence is the chief cause of persistent or recurrent symptoms. Small intestinal adenocarcinoma, refractory sprue, and enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma are complications of celiac disease that must be ruled out when alarming symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss develop despite a strict gluten-free diet.


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