Undiagnosed coeliac disease ‘a growing health problem’

Undiagnosed coeliac disease ‘a growing health problem’

Delayed diagnosis of coeliac disease is creating a growing health problem in the UK with undiagnosed patients at risk of suffering with complications of the disease including irreversible neurological damage.

This is the warning from Coeliac UK, the charity for people who need to live gluten-free. It is urging health professionals and the public to take coeliac disease more seriously. Today (14th May) marks the first day of the charity’s Awareness Week, which runs until 20th May. Coeliac UK will be highlighting the symptoms of the disease and providing emerging evidence relating to previously unknown complications of the autoimmune disease.

“Many see coeliac disease as just a disease of the gut, when in fact it is a systemic disease that can affect other parts of the body,” said Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK. “A coeliac disease diagnosis is often missed because the patient is not presenting with gut symptoms, but rather they may present with neurological symptoms and are directed to a neurologist rather than a gastroenterologist.”

In a study of patients with newly diagnosed coeliac disease, who had been referred to a gastroenterology clinic, around three out of five had established neurological symptoms including severe headache (45%), balance problems (26%) and sensory symptoms (14%).

“Delayed diagnosis of coeliac disease is associated with development of neurological conditions such as gluten ataxia and gluten related neuropathy which can have lifelong debilitating impacts,” said Sleet.

It takes on average 13 years for a person to be diagnosed with coeliac disease and it is estimated that half a million people are living undiagnosed with the disease.

Read this month’s issue of EDUcatering Magazine on the importance of communicating with parents and carers about their child’s special dietary requirements.