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First online assessment aid for coeliac disease set to launch

Aims to find undiagnosed half a million estimated to have condition

Caroline White

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The first online assessment aid to pick up coeliac disease is set to launch next month in a bid to help fast track diagnosis among the estimated half a million people who don’t know they have the condition.

The assessment, which forms part of charity Coeliac UK’s new campaign to raise awareness of the condition, officially launches on May 11.

The two year campaign, ‘Is it coeliac disease?’ aims to highlight the most common symptoms of coeliac disease and prompt people experiencing these symptoms to get them checked out.

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, activates the immune system in people with coeliac disease, causing damage to the lining of the small bowel.

Gluten is not just confined to bread, pastas, cakes and biscuits; it is often used as an ingredient in many other foods, including fish fingers, sausages, gravies, sauces and soy sauce.

The new assessment is based on National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines, and aims to give people the confidence to seek further medical advice from their GP so that they can receive appropriate follow-up care and support, and prompt close family members to be tested.

There is currently no cure and no medication for coeliac disease. The only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet for life.

Left untreated, coeliac disease can lead to several complications, including osteoporosis and, in rare cases, even small bowel cancer.

Key symptoms include frequent bouts of diarrhoea, stomach pain and cramping, regular mouth ulcers, ongoing fatigue, excess gas and bloating, nausea and vomiting, and unexplained anaemia.

One in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease, with the prevalence rising to one in 10 for close family members. But current data show only around one in four of those with the condition have been diagnosed, leaving an estimated half a million people in the UK who don’t yet know they have the condition.

The average time to diagnosis is 13 years, and one in four of those who are eventually diagnosed with coeliac disease will have been previously diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.

“With half a million people living with undiagnosed coeliac disease we must take radical action to turn around this horrendous situation. We hope that giving people direct access to an online assessment tool will put those who are suffering with the symptoms of undiagnosed coeliac disease on a pathway to diagnosis and avoid potentially life threatening long-term health complications,” commented Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK.   

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