Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the body produces antibodies to gluten – a protein found in bread and a large number of food products. Strictly speaking it is not an allergy, but rather a delay immune hypersensitivity.
It effects about 1 in 100 people in the UK. Anyone, at any age, can develop coeliac disease. Although you aren’t born with coeliac disease, it is a condition that used to be associated with young children.
Symptoms are often subtle and can be interpreted as Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – symptoms such as low energy, bloating, diarrhoea and dyspepsia are all common. It can be initially screened for with a simple blood test at your GP surgery.
If your blood test is positive, then you will need to have a gastroscopy to allow samples of the small bowel (duodenum) to be biopsied.
Coeliac disease often runs in families. If you have a close family member who has coeliac disease then you have up to a 1 in 10 chance of developing coeliac disease during your lifetime. It is also more common in people who have other autoimmune diseases – for example, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease.
It is now much more commonly diagnosed in adults. It is most commonly diagnosed in people aged between 50 and 69. About 25% of cases are diagnosed in people aged over 60.
Making an early diagnosis can help prevent deficiencies in iron, folate and vitamin D. This in turn can prevent developing osteoporosis.
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