Many afflictions have been associated with celiac disease, but chance associations may exists. The aim of this study was to establish, by means of a multicenter prospective study, the prevalence of thyroid impairment among adult patients with newly diagnosed celiac disease and to evaluate the effect of a 1-yr gluten withdrawal on thyroid function.
A total of 241 consecutive untreated patients and 212 controls were enrolled. In 128 subjects a thorough assessment, including intestinal biopsy, was repeated within 1 yr of dietary treatment. Thyroid function was assayed by measuring the levels of TSH, free T3, free T4, thyroperoxidase, and thyroid microsome antibodies.
Thyroid disease was 3-fold higher in patients than in controls (p < 0.0005). Hypothyroidism, diagnosed in 31 patients (12.9%) and nine controls (4.2%), was subclinical in 29 patients and of nonautoimmune origin in 21. There was no difference regarding hyperthyroidism, whereas autoimmune thyroid disease with euthyroidism was present in 39 patients (16.2%) and eight controls (3.8%). In most patients who strictly followed a 1-yr gluten withdrawal (as confirmed by intestinal mucosa recovery), there was a normalization of subclinical hypothyroidism. Twenty-five percent of patients with euthyroid autoimmune disease shifted toward either a subclinical hyperthyroidism or subclinical hypothyroidism; in these subjects, dietary compliance was poor. In addition, 5.5% of patients whose thyroid function was normal while untreated developed some degree of thyroid dysfunction 1 yr later.
The greater frequency of thyroid disease among celiac disease patients justifies a thyroid functional assessment. In distinct cases, gluten withdrawal may single-handedly reverse the abnormality.