OBJECTIVES:Celiac disease (CD) is common and often cited as an “iceberg” phenomenon (i.e., an assumed large number of undiagnosed cases). Recently, atypical or asymptomatic manifestations are becoming more commonly described in older children and adolescents. Moreover, CD diagnosis in children can be complicated by several factors, including its diverse clinical presentations, delay in recognizing CD signs and symptoms, and premature dietary gluten avoidance before the formal diagnosis of CD. To date, few studies have directly examined age-related differences in clinical characteristics and gluten-related issues among children with CD. The aim of this study was to determine age-related patterns in clinical characteristics and gluten-related issues among children with confirmed CD.METHODS:We performed a structured medical record review of biopsy-proven CD patients, aged 0–19 years, between 2000 and 2010 at a large Boston teaching hospital. Data collection included demographics, medical history, gluten-related issues, and diagnostic investigations (CD-specific serology, upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, and small intestinal biopsy). The first positive duodenal biopsy with Marsh III classification defined age of diagnosis. Patients were divided into three age groups for comparisons of the aforementioned characteristics: infant-preschool group (0–5 years), school-aged group (6–11 years), and adolescence group (12–19 years).RESULTS:Among 411 children with biopsy-proven CD, the mean age was 9.5 (s.d. 5.1) years. Most were female (63%) and white (96%). All children had positive CD-specific serology. Most children presented with either abdominal complaints or bowel movement changes. Overall, boys were more common among infant-preschool group compared with the other age groups. More distinct clinical manifestations (vomiting, bowel movement changes, and weight issues) were apparent in the youngest group, whereas school-aged children had more subjective abdominal complaints at the initial presentation. Conversely, the adolescents were most likely to present without any gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, but not when this was combined with absence of weight issues. Age of diagnosis was not associated with atypical extraintestinal CD presentations. Regarding the gluten-related issues, 10% of school-aged children avoided dietary gluten before the formal CD diagnosis, and 27% of the adolescents reported dietary gluten transgression within the first 12 months of diagnosis, significantly higher than the other age groups. Age differences in histopathology were also found. Whereas the infant-preschool group had a higher proportion of total villous atrophy, the older children were more likely to have gross duodenal abnormalities and chronic duodenitis suggestive of CD at the time of diagnosis.CONCLUSIONS:Children and adolescents with CD have age-related patterns in both the clinical presentations and gluten-related issues. More pronounced clinical and histological features were determined in younger children, whereas older children more commonly presented with solely subjective abdominal complaints or even without any GI symptoms. However, silent and atypical extraintestinal CD presentations were comparable between age groups. In addition to the aforementioned presentations, the higher rates of dietary gluten avoidance and transgression in older children make CD diagnosis and management particularly challenging. These age-related patterns may further increase awareness, facilitate early diagnosis, and improve patient care of pediatric CD.