If you know celiac disease well, you know it can be triggered at any point, including later, in your life. But that message, in some cases, continues to elude the general public and sometimes the medical community. Celiac is not only a young person’s disease. And this study has some proof.

New research out of Finland published in BMC Gastroenterology June, and just reported Friday by Reuters shows that celiac disease can strike for the first time later in life for some people. But it also acknowledges that many older Americans with celiac disease may have gone undiagnosed for years.

The current study looked at 2,815 people over the age of 55 who had the blood test for celiac in 2002. Most (2,216) were retested in 2005. Researchers then did biopsies on patients to confirm the blood test findings.

“In 2002, 2.13% of the study participants had biopsy-confirmed celiac disease, while 2.34% did in 2005. There were five new cases among people whose blood tests had initially been negative for the disease, and only two of these individuals had symptoms. That led the researchers to conclude that the elderly could develop the disease late in life.” –Reuters

The article also noted that many older Americans go on for years having symptoms and not getting a diagnosis, which leads to more health problems.

“…the researchers note; in one study including 35 people 60 and older, 15 had been seeing their doctor for 28 years, on average, with symptoms without being diagnosed.”

Researchers concluded that doctors should consider the possibility that older patients could develop celiac disease – even if they’ve tested negative in the past.

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