Coeliac disease

What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is when the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains. Over time this reaction causes damage to the lining of the small intestine.

It is different to gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity. While they may share similar symptoms, gluten intolerance doesn’t show an immune response and damage the small intestine in the same way as coeliac disease.

What are the symptoms of coeliac disease?

Many of the symptoms of coeliac disease a non-specific, which makes it hard to diagnose. Some of the most common complaints include:

Other, non-digestive, symptoms include:

  • tiredness and weakness,
  • iron and/or folic acid deficiency,
  • infertility,
  • bone loss, and
  • malnutrition.

What causes coeliac disease

There are a number of genes that play a part in being predisposed to coeliac disease. However, around only around one in 40 will develop the disease. It may be triggered by stressful events such as viral infection, surgery, pregnancy, or emotional trauma.

If a close family member (such as sibling or parent) has coeliac disease, you have a 1 in 10 change of also having it.

How is coeliac disease diagnosed?

You should visit your doctor if you’ve been experiencing any of the above symptoms for more than two weeks. They will undertake a number of tests, such as:

  • blood tests to look at:
    • serology for certain antibodies,
    • immune system,
    • red blood cells count,
    • c-reactive protein,
    • vitamin D, B12 and folate,
    • iron,
  • endoscopy, colonoscopy or pillcam, and
  • imaging tests.

What treatment options are available?

The only current ‘cure’ for coeliac disease is a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet. By removing gluten from the diet, the small intestine is allowed to heal and symptoms should resolve.

Find out more about Coeliac disease

To find out more about Coeliac disease talk to one of our gastroenterologists today.