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Minerva Medica 2008 December;99(6):619-29

Copyright © 2008 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

Liver dysfunction in celiac disease

Volta U.

Department of Clinical Medicine St.Orsola-Malpighi Polyclinic University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy


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Although the spectrum of liver abnormalities associated with celiac disease is particularly wide, two main forms of liver damage, namely cryptogenic and autoimmune, appear to be strictly related to gluten-sensitive enteropathy. The most frequent occurrence is a cryptogenic hypertransaminasemia, present in about a half of untreated celiac patients, as an expression of a mild liver impairment characterised by a histological picture of non specific reactive hepatitis (celiac hepatitis) reverting to normal after a few months of gluten withdrawal. In a few cases, a more severe liver injury leading to chronic hepatitis or liver cirrhosis is present. In these patients liver damage can still improve after a gluten-free diet institution. In addition, a close association between celiac disease and autoimmune liver disorders has been largely demonstrated. Indeed, 3%-7% of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis, 3%-6% with autoimmune hepatitis and 2-3% with primary sclerosing cholangitis are affected by celiac disease. Autoimmune liver dysfunction, found in celiac disease, does not usually improve after gluten-free-diet. Presently, it is difficult to establish if the two main kinds of liver injury found in celiac disease (cryptogenic and autoimmune) are discrete entities with a different pathogenesis or if they are an expression of the same disorder where genetic factors and duration of gluten exposure may determine the severity and the pattern of liver injury.

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