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Objective To investigate a possible association between celiac disease (CD) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Case series have indicated a possible association, but population-based studies are lacking.
Methods We compared the risk of SLE in 29,048 individuals with biopsy-verified CD (villous atrophy, Marsh 3) from Sweden’s 28 pathology departments with that in 144,352 matched individuals from the general population identified through the Swedish Total Population Register. SLE was defined as having at least 2 records of SLE in the Swedish Patient Register. We used Cox regression to estimate hazard ratios (HR) for SLE.
Results During followup, 54 individuals with CD had an incident SLE. This corresponded to an HR of 3.49 (95% CI 2.48−4.90), with an absolute risk of 17/100,000 person-years and an excess risk of 12/100,000. Beyond 5 years of followup, the HR for SLE was 2.54 (95% CI 1.57−4.10). While SLE was predominantly female, we found similar risk estimates in men and women. When we restricted our outcome to individuals who also had a dispensation for a medication used in SLE, the HR was 2.43 (95% CI 1.22−4.87). The HR for having 2 records of SLE diagnoses, out of which at least 1 had occurred in a department of rheumatology, nephrology/dialysis, internal medicine, or pediatrics, was 2.87 (95% CI 1.97−4.17).
Conclusion Individuals with CD were at a 3-fold increased risk of SLE compared to the general population. Although this excess risk remained more than 5 years after CD diagnosis, absolute risks were low.