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Fourfold Increase in Celiac Disease in the UK

New research has found a fourfold increase in the rate of diagnosed cases of celiac disease in the United Kingdom over the past two decades, but it still appears that three quarters of people with celiac disease remain undiagnosed.

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

1 in 100 people in the UK have celiac disease, with the prevalence rising to 1 in 10 for close family members. Left untreated celiac disease may lead to infertility, osteoporosis and small bowel cancer.

The National Institute of Health & Care Excellence (NICE) previously estimated that only 10-15% of those with celiac disease had been diagnosed, however, this latest research by Dr Joe West from University of Nottingham, funded by Celiac UK and CORE has shown that the level of diagnosis has increased to 24%.

Researchers identified the number of people diagnosed during the study period using the diagnostic codes for celiac disease recorded in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (1990-2011). The research is published by The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Celiac UK said: “This latest research shows that nearly a quarter of people with celiac disease have now been diagnosed and gives an up to date picture of the diagnosis levels across the UK. 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. But the three quarters undiagnosed is around 500,000 people – a shocking statistic that needs urgent action.”

The symptoms of celiac disease range from mild to severe and can vary between individuals. Not everyone with celiac 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, diarrhea, and wind, and other common symptoms include extreme tiredness, anemia, headaches and mouth ulcers, weight loss (but not in all cases), skin problems, depression, and joint or bone pain.

West J et al., Incidence and Prevalence of Celiac Disease and Dermatitis Herpetiformis in the UK Over Two Decades: Population-Based Study. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2014; 109 (5): 757 DOI: 10.1038/ajg.2014.55

Categories: Nutritional News