Idiopathic atrophic glossitis as the only clinical sign for celiac disease diagnosis: a case report.
ABSTRACT The aim of this case report is to show how an oral condition, such as atrophic glossitis, can be the only clinical sign that allows an early diagnosis of celiac disease.
Atrophic glossitis was detected by a dentist during a first routine examination of the oral cavity of a 17-year-old Sardinian young woman and then differential diagnosis was carried out to identify the etiology of her tongue condition. Considering the high prevalence of celiac disease in the patient's birth area, the clinician took a blood sample to search for vitamin deficiency and immunological anomalies typically linked to celiac disease. Positive blood sample results allowed the patient to be referred to a gastroenterologist in order to perform a small intestine biopsy. The biopsy showed a strong atrophy of the intestinal villus so that it was possible to make a sure diagnosis of celiac disease. After five months on a gluten-free diet, the oral clinician was not able to find any signs of atrophic glossitis.
Two important conclusions can be reached from this case report; first, the fundamental role played by the oral condition alone in finding and highlighting atypical forms of celiac disease and second, the importance of investigating systemic anomalies, in cases where there is a tongue condition such as atrophic glossitis and when it is impossible to identify local causes.
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ABSTRACT: Patients frequently present complaining of tongue abnormalities. Knowledge of normal tongue anaomy an d architecture enable the clinician t odifferentiate variations of normal from abnormal conditions. Many tongue conditions are benign and. require reassurance and explanation, with little to no treatment. Others can signify systemic disorders. Examination of the tongue is an integral part of a complete physical examination. Recognizing the disorders of the tongue that are benign and do not require treatment or further evaluation prevents unnecessary testing for the patient. Careful evaluation of the tongue may provide valuable clues to a systemic disorder.Dermatologic Clinics 02/2003; 21(1):123-34. · 1.52 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Although easily examined, abnormalities of the tongue can present a diagnostic and therapeutic dilemma for physicians. Recognition and diagnosis require a thorough history, including onset and duration, antecedent symptoms, and tobacco and alcohol use. Examination of tongue morphology and a careful assessment for lymphadenopathy are also important. Geographic tongue, fissured tongue, and hairy tongue are the most common tongue problems and do not require treatment. Median rhomboid glossitis is usually associated with a candidal infection and responds to topical antifungals. Atrophic glossitis is often linked to an underlying nutritional deficiency of iron, folic acid, vitamin B12, riboflavin, or niacin and resolves with correction of the underlying condition. Oral hairy leukoplakia, which can be a marker for underlying immunodeficiency, is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus and is treated with oral antivirals. Tongue growths usually require biopsy to differentiate benign lesions (e.g., granular cell tumors, fibromas, lymphoepithelial cysts) from premalignant leukoplakia or squamous cell carcinoma. Burning mouth syndrome often involves the tongue and has responded to treatment with alpha-lipoic acid, clonazepam, and cognitive behavior therapy in controlled trials. Several trials have also confirmed the effectiveness of surgical division of tongue-tie (ankyloglossia), in the context of optimizing the success of breastfeeding compared with education alone. Tongue lesions of unclear etiology may require biopsy or referral to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, head and neck surgeon, or a dentist experienced in oral pathology.American family physician 03/2010; 81(5):627-34. · 1.61 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) seem to play an important role in the pathogenesis of gynecological carcinomas and in head and neck carcinomas. The aim of this study was to detect and genotype HPVs in fresh oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) from a Sardinian population, and to determine whether HPV presence was significantly associated with the development of OSCC.The oral mucosa tissues were obtained from 120 samples (68 OSCC and 52 control samples) taken from a Sardinian population seen at the Dental Clinic of the Department of Surgery and Odontostomatological Sciences, University of Cagliari (Italy) and the " Ospedale SS Trinità", Cagliari (A.S.L. 8) between 2007 and 2008. PCR was used for the detection of HPV DNA and the genotype was determined by DNA sequencing. The frequency of HPV infection was evaluated in relation to age, sex, smoking and alcohol use. Statistical analysis was performed using the SPSS 11.5 software.The results showed the presence of HPV-DNA in 60.3% of OSCC with HPV-16 (51.2%) being the most frequent genotype. In these Sardinian OSCC patients, HPV-DNA was detected more in males (65.8%) than in females (34.1%) while controls show a 0% of HPV presence. HPV positive was highly associated with OSCC among subjects with a history of heavy tobacco and alcohol use and among those with no such history.A greater frequency of high risk HPV presence was observed in patients with OSCC compared to health control patients. In addition these results suggested that oral HPV presence could be associated in OSCC subjects. Our results need more analyses to detect the HPV-DNA integration into tumoral cells.The Open Virology Journal 01/2010; 4:163-8.
CASE REPORTOpen Access
Idiopathic atrophic glossitis as the only clinical
sign for celiac disease diagnosis: a case report
Matteo Erriu*, Fernando Canargiu, Germano Orrù, Valentino Garau and Caterina Montaldo
Introduction: The aim of this case report is to show how an oral condition, such as atrophic glossitis, can be the
only clinical sign that allows an early diagnosis of celiac disease.
Case presentation: Atrophic glossitis was detected by a dentist during a first routine examination of the oral cavity
of a 17-year-old Sardinian young woman and then differential diagnosis was carried out to identify the etiology of
her tongue condition. Considering the high prevalence of celiac disease in the patient’s birth area, the clinician
took a blood sample to search for vitamin deficiency and immunological anomalies typically linked to celiac
disease. Positive blood sample results allowed the patient to be referred to a gastroenterologist in order to perform
a small intestine biopsy. The biopsy showed a strong atrophy of the intestinal villus so that it was possible to make
a sure diagnosis of celiac disease. After five months on a gluten-free diet, the oral clinician was not able to find any
signs of atrophic glossitis.
Conclusions: Two important conclusions can be reached from this case report; first, the fundamental role played
by the oral condition alone in finding and highlighting atypical forms of celiac disease and second, the importance
of investigating systemic anomalies, in cases where there is a tongue condition such as atrophic glossitis and when
it is impossible to identify local causes.
Keywords: Atrophic glossitis, Celiac disease, Early diagnosis
Tongue diseases could be reflections of altered systemic
conditions or, also, initial forms of local and often severe
pathologies (for example, carcinomas) [1,2]. The most
commonly encountered tongue diseases resulting from
systemic conditions are median rhomboid glossitis, atro-
phic glossitis, fissured tongue, and geographic tongue,
while among local conditions, there are papilloma, hairy
tongue and leukoplakia with their possible malignant
Atrophic glossitis (AG) is an inflammatory disorder of
the tongue mucosa that shows a smooth, glossy appear-
ance with a red or pink background . The smooth ap-
pearance is linked to the atrophy of filiform papillae that
causes the development of circinate erythematous ulcer-
like lesions of the dorsum and the lateral border of the
tongue [2,4]. This disease is primarily related to various
conditions such as amyloidosis, chemical irritations, drug
reactions, local infections such as candidiasis, nutritional
deficiencies, pernicious anemia, malnutrition, sarcoidosis,
Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic infections, psoriasis, vascu-
loerosive diseases or celiac disease [1,2,4,5]. Since there
are so many different possible causes, etiological identifi-
cation of AG can be extremely difficult, so that various
analyses and investigations are needed before diagnosis
. For the same reason, the etiology sometimes remains
unknown until symptoms other than tongue inflammation
are identified .
Celiac disease (CD) is a disorder linked to an auto-
immune intolerance to gliadin, a protein contained in
gluten. The main target of this intolerance is the mucosa
of the small intestine with development of histological
lesions characterized by various degrees of villous atro-
phy, crypt hyperplasia, damage to the surface epithelium,
and an increased number of activated lymphocytes and
other inflammatory cells infiltrating the lamina propria.
CD diagnosis is based on observation of systemic clin-
ical signs followed by blood analysis and is finally deter-
mined by a histopathological examination of the small
* Correspondence: email@example.com
Dipartimento di Chirurgia e Scienze Odontostomatologiche, Università degli
studi di Cagliari, Via Binaghi 4, Cagliari, CA 09121, Italy
JOURNAL OF MEDICAL
© 2012 Erriu et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Erriu et al. Journal of Medical Case Reports 2012, 6:185
intestine. Today, the greatest difficulty in obtaining this
diagnosis is the identification of clinical signs that are
not ‘typical’ for CD so that many patients never arrive at
the gastroenterological examination stage. CD can be
divided into different clinical forms known as classical,
atypical, subclinical and latent. The classical form is
characterized by intestinal symptoms such as chronic
diarrhea, weight loss, growth deficit and vomiting; all
other symptoms from other sites determine the atypical,
subclinical and latent forms . Clinical signs could also
be divided into two groups of direct or indirect symp-
toms . Direct symptoms are directly linked to the im-
consequence of the intestinal damage that causes poor
absorption of nutrients in the cells of the basal layer.
Once the disease is suspected through the identifica-
tion of these clinical signs, serological analysis is neces-
sary to confirm this diagnosis. Principal serological
markers used for CD diagnosis are the tissue transgluta-
minase (tTG) antibody test and the IgA-endomysial anti-
body (EmA) test, while other tests such as antigliadin
(AGA) or antireticulum (ARA) are no longer routinely
performed . Another serological test often performed
when CD is suspected is the HLA-DQB1 haplotype.
HLA typing is an important marker for demonstrating
the possibility that a patient is affected by CD. Interest is
increasing in the link between the development of the
different clinical forms of CD and the different HLA-
DQB1 genotypes [9,10]. Recently more and more im-
portance has been given to the link between this gene
expression and the development of atypical and latent
Early CD diagnosis is indispensable for avoiding long
term effects linked to untreated pathology. Various reports
in the literature describe how patients with a never-
identified CD showed an increasing incidence of small
bowel malignancies, adenocarcinoma and enteropathy-
associated T-cell lymphoma .
The aim of this case presentation is to highlight how
AG could be the only previous sign that can be used to
suspect a gluten intolerance and how it is always neces-
sary to identify tongue inflammation etiology.
A 17-year-old Sardinian young woman underwent an
initial examination at the dentist’s office during a routine
checkup in 2010. After obtaining informed consent from
her parents, clinical evaluation was performed, during
which some caries were detected and also the need for
an orthodontic consultation. The presence of an atrophy
of filiform papillae with circinate erythematous ulcer-like
lesions of the dorsum and the lateral border of the
tongue was observed.
During the anamnesis, neither the patient nor her par-
ents reported any history of systemic disease or, in par-
ticular, any gastrointestinal symptoms. Talking with the
patient and her parents, it was possible to verify that the
tongue affection had started when she was five years old
with no other symptoms and with intermittence. During
her past medical history, no one had ever investigated
these tongue lesions.
With these elements, the clinician identified the
tongue condition as an AG and started with a more
detailed analysis of systemic and local conditions related
to this pathology. The patient, as highlighted by the an-
amnesis, did not show any other symptoms or signs
related to pathologies typically linked to an AG, apart
from her short stature . She was only 145 cm tall but
this condition had previously gone unnoticed because
her parents were also short. Considering the presence of
short stature with an AG, the problems could be related
to a nutritional dysfunction such as vitamin B12 defi-
ciency. Given that Sardinia is an area with a high fre-
quency of CD, gluten enteropathy became the first
suspect as a possible cause for the eventual vitamin B12
As a first step, a blood sample was requested to deter-
mine the vitamin deficiency and to perform AGA and
tTG antibody tests and the EmA test. Hematologic tests
showed a vitamin deficiency with positive results for
antibody tests (Table 1) so a small intestine biopsy was
performed during a gastroenterological consultation .
A diagnosis of CD was made based on the findings
from the biopsy sample; such as: the characteristic
changes in intraepithelial lymphocytosis, crypt hyperpla-
sia and a Marsh type IIIc villous atrophy. She was trea-
ted by excluding gluten-based-food from her diet
(gluten-free diet). After five months she repeated the
intraoral examination where it was possible to verify re-
mission of the AG.
More than 100 years after its first description in 1887,
CD is still an orphan pathology, since any specialist can
Table 1 Blood sample test analysis show as suspected a
B12 vitamin deficiency, immunological analysis showed a
positive response for tissue transglutaminase and
Test Normal rangePatient’s value
Folic Acid 3 to 17 ng/ml1.65
Vitamin B12193 to 982 pg/ml
IgA-endomysial antibody (EmA)— Positive
Erriu et al. Journal of Medical Case Reports 2012, 6:185
Page 2 of 3
be the sole person responsible for its diagnosis while, at
the same time, collaboration among more specialists is
indispensable for the recognition of early symptoms of
CD, especially for atypical forms.
Today, this is a common pathology with an incidence
of around one in 300 people worldwide and a higher
prevalence in some areas, such as Sardinia in Italy where
the incidence is one in 100 people. The greatest diffusion
is reported among patients with other autoimmune dis-
eases such as type 1 diabetes and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
with a frequency three to 10 times higher than in the
general population .
Year after year, the discovery of this celiac iceberg has
assumed greater importance with regard to obtaining
adequate prevention of CD complications, so that it has
become clear how clinical manifestations of this path-
ology are sometimes insidious and hard to discover or
recognize. For this reason many medical specialists other
than gastroenterologists, such as neurologists, dermatol-
ogists, gynecologists and dentists have also started to
analyze their role in providing a suspected diagnosis of
this pathology [6,7,10]. This attention to CD aims at
allowing the recognition of its symptoms without any
delay between early sign detection and CD diagnosis, a
time during which the patient often receives many dif-
ferent wrong diagnoses before that of CD . For this rea-
son, oral signs linked to CD, described by many
scientific works over the past few years, have shown that
oral anomalies, such as dental enamel defects and recur-
rent aphthous stomatitis, could have a prevalence of 60%
in association with CD .
Abnormalities of the tongue can represent an unclear
pathology for the dentist, especially when they are linked
to autoimmune diseases or a nutritional deficiency. This
case study has tried to show as clearly as possible how
tongue diseases could be mirrors for systemic conditions
and not only for some local alterations. Different kinds
of glossitis can be linked to systemic pathology usually
not linked to common dental practice . For this rea-
son, the clinician, after excluding local etiology through
a differential diagnosis, simply ignores the disease in-
stead of performing a more accurate analysis. On the
contrary, this paper has demonstrated that the dentist
must always work to discover the cause of tongue affec-
tion and that this goal can be achieved by working to-
gether with other specialists . In particular, it has
been shown how starting from an AG, the dentist in col-
laboration with the gastroenterologist, can have a funda-
mental role in CD diagnosis. As previously recalled,
when CD is not identified and the patient does not fol-
low a gluten-free diet, he or she can be exposed to se-
vere intestinal complications.
In conclusion, in the presence of a tongue lesion of
uncommon etiology, patients must always be referred to
a dentist, highly qualified in oral pathology, for a diagno-
sis to be obtained.
Written informed consent was obtained from the
patient’s legal guardian for publication of this case report
and any accompanying images. A copy of the written
consent is available for review by the Editor-in-Chief of
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
ME performed the first examination, the diagnosis and wrote the paper. FC
and VG were major contributors for differential diagnosis, GO and CM were
major contributors in blood sample interpretation and in writing the
manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Received: 13 January 2012 Accepted: 4 July 2012
Published: 4 July 2012
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Cite this article as: Erriu et al.: Idiopathic atrophic glossitis as the only
clinical sign for celiac disease diagnosis: a case report. Journal of Medical
Case Reports 2012 6:185.
Erriu et al. Journal of Medical Case Reports 2012, 6:185
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