Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that results in a permanent intolerance to dietary gluten. Gluten is a protein found in the cereal grains of wheat, rye, barley and oats.
Ingested gluten causes inflammation and damage to the small bowel. This damage can impair the normal absorption from food and so can affect the body in many ways. Treatment of coeliac disease is by the permanent elimination of gluten from the diet, commonly referred to as a gluten free diet.
Symptoms of Coeliac Disease
Symptoms of coeliac disease are extremely varied. Individuals can have single or multiple symptoms, some have no symptoms at all.
- Unexplained anaemia; iron and folic acid deficiency are the most common
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Fatigue, weakness and lethargy
- Flatulence, bloating and abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss or gain
- Early menopause, infertility
- Altered mental state including depression and anxiety
- Bone and joint pains
- Easy bruising
- Skin rashes such as dermatitis herpetiformis
The following additional symptoms may be seen in children:
- Delayed growth
- Delayed puberty
Coeliac Disease affects at least 1 in 100 people in Australia. The cause of the disease is not known. There is a genetic link, however the development of coeliac disease cannot be explained through genetic factors alone. People with coeliacdisease have a higher incidence of other autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and thyroid diseases.
There are some long-term risks of undiagnosed coeliac disease. This includes osteoporosis, infertility, recurrent miscarriages, neurological disorders, dental enamel defects and gastrointestinal cancers.