Healthy living

Coeliac misdiagnosis common

Six out of ten coeliacs wrongly diagnosed Often mistaken for IBS

Around a quarter of people with coeliac disease visited their doctor for 11 years or more before getting a correct diagnosis, research has found.

And a further 11 per cent of people with symptoms of the disease saw their doctor for over 20 years before their condition was diagnosed.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by eating gluten, a protein present in cereals such as rye, wheat and barley.

As there are no drugs to treat or cure the condition, people with coeliac disease need to adopt a gluten-free diet. Not doing so puts them at risk of infertility, multiple miscarriages, osteoporosis and bowel cancer.

The survey of more than 1,600 people with the condition also found that nearly six out of 10 were originally misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, and were not tested for coeliac disease.

A similar proportion were told they were anaemic.

Other conditions diagnosed by doctors included anxiety and depression, "holiday tummy", gastroenteritis, gallstones, duodenal ulcer, ME or chronic fatigue syndrome, appendicitis and even hypochondria.

Nearly a third of people surveyed said they thought their GP's knowledge about coeliac disease was poor or very poor.

In 2009 the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued guidelines on how to recognise and diagnose coeliac disease.

Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK who carried out the survey, said: "As a charity we are receiving around 1,000 new member requests a month from people who have just been diagnosed.

"It is too early to tell if the NICE guidelines are improving diagnosis rates, but with around 500,000 people currently undiagnosed in the UK there is still a long way to go and it will be another 30 years at the current rate of progress before we crack the problem.”

More information Problems eating wheat?

This article was published on Mon 26 July 2010

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