A leading charity has raised concern that delayed diagnosis of coeliac disease is creating a growing health problem across
Coeliac UK has issued a warning that undiagnosed patients are at risk of suffering with complications of the disease, including irreversible neurological damage.
In its 50th anniversary year, the charity is urging health professionals and the general public to take coeliac disease seriously.
Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive, said that even though awareness of coeliac disease has grown, there is a perception it is not that serious because it requires a gluten free diet as its medical treatment.
“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. 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,” she explained.
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 per cent), balance problems (26 per cent) and sensory symptoms (14 per cent).
Coeliac disease is a serious autoimmune condition caused by a reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. One in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease but around half a million people in the UK are currently undiagnosed.