Diagnosed cases of Coeliac disease increase fourfold in the UK

There has been a fourfold increase in diagnosed cases of Coeliac disease in the UK over the past two decades, but still three quarters of people with Coeliac disease remain undiagnosed, according to new research from the University of Nottingham.

WheatThe research, which was published on 12 May 2014 in The American Journal of Gastroenterology and funded by Coeliac UK and CORE, found that the diagnosis level of Coeliac disease had increased to 24 per cent. The National Institute of Health & Care Excellence (NICE) had previously estimated that only 10 to 15 per cent of those with Coeliac disease had been diagnosed. Researchers identified the number of people diagnosed during the study period using the diagnostic codes for Coeliac disease recorded in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (1990-2011).

The only treatment for Coeliac disease is a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye and, once diagnosed, people with Coeliac disease need to eliminate all gluten-containing foods and make sure they only eat gluten-free varieties.

“This latest research shows that nearly a quarter of people with Coeliac disease have now been diagnosed and gives an up to date picture of the diagnosis levels across the UK,” said Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK.

Gluten FreeCoeliac disease is an autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten. Left untreated it may lead to infertility, osteoporosis and small bowel cancer. One in 100 people in the UK have Coeliac disease, with the prevalence rising to 1 in 10 for close family members.

The symptoms of Coeliac disease range from mild to severe and can vary between individuals. Not everyone with Coeliac disease experiences gut related symptoms; any area of the body can be affected. Symptoms can include ongoing gut problems such as bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, and wind, and other common symptoms include extreme tiredness, anaemia, headaches and mouth ulcers, weight loss (but not in all cases), skin problems, depression, and joint or bone pain.

“Of course, increasing numbers with a diagnosis is good news and will inevitably mean that there will be an increased demand for gluten-free products in supermarkets,” Ms Sleet said. “But the three quarters undiagnosed is around 500,000 people – a shocking statistic that needs urgent action,” she said.