Work Disability with Celiac Disease

Most patients that I see with celiac disease (CD) do very well after diagnosis/implementation of dietary therapy. A recent study indicates a subset of patients have significant work disability as adults.

SR Bozorg et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2022; 20: 1068-1076. Open Access: Work Loss in Patients With Celiac Disease: A Population-based Longitudinal Study

In this large-scale nationwide study (part of the ESPRESSO study) from Sweden, the authors used prospectively recorded register data to estimate work loss in patients with CD in comparison to the general population, including the temporal relationship of work loss before and after diagnosis. This study included more than 16,000 patients with CD.

Key findings:

  • In 2015, patients with prevalent CD had a mean of 42.5 lost work days as compared with 28.6 in comparators
  • More than one-half of the work loss (60.1%) in patients with CD was derived from a small subgroup (7%), whereas 75.4% had no work loss
  • The annual mean difference between patients and comparators was 8.0 days of lost work 5 years before CD diagnosis, which grew to 13.7 days 5 years after diagnosis in the incident CD group (dx between 2008-2015)

In the discussion, the authors speculate about whether the work loss could be due to inadequate response to a gluten free diet; however, in this study, the authors found similar work loss between patients with CD with or without mucosal healing (only 25% underwent f/u biopsy).

My take: It would be interesting to see the pediatric corollary of work loss, namely school absenteeism and whether this is increased in a small subset as well. My suspicion is that the subset with increased work loss likely has a higher rate of functional disorders, in addition to CD, than the comparator group and probably accounts for a significant amount of the work disability.

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