The UK’s first ever online assessment for coeliac disease has been completed by over 50,000 people searching for an explanation to their symptoms.
The online assessment, developed by charity Coeliac UK, was launched last year by patron Caroline Quentin. The assessment is a key initiative of the charity’s campaign ‘Is it coeliac disease?’, and focuses on speeding up the time it takes to diagnose the disease. Currently the average period from onset of symptoms to diagnosis of coeliac disease is 13 years.
When the assessment is completed, people receive an email with the results which indicate if their symptoms are potentially linked to coeliac disease. The assessment is based on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and intends to give people more confidence to seek further medical advice from their GP.
The assessment’s launch has resulted in 87% of participants being advised to go to their GP for blood tests. The test looks for antibodies produced in undiagnosed coeliac disease and patients can also receive information on the testing process.
An estimated half a million people in the UK are currently undiagnosed with the disease.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system damages the lining of the small bowel when gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, is eaten. There is no cure and no medication; the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet for life. Left untreated, coeliac disease can lead to a number of complications including osteoporosis, infertility and in rare cases small bowel cancer.
Key symptoms include: frequent bouts of diarrhoea, stomach pain and cramping, regular mouth ulcers, ongoing fatigue, lots of gas and bloating, nausea and vomiting, and unexplained anaemia.
Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK, said: “We are very pleased that so many have already taken the assessment, but there is still a long way to go to find the missing half a million undiagnosed people. So I urge everyone to check their symptoms through our online assessment tool, and if the symptoms are related to coeliac disease, go to your doctor and ask for a blood test but don’t stop eating gluten until you are tested otherwise critical blood tests may give a false negative result.”
A confirmed medical diagnosis of coeliac disease enables people to receive appropriate follow up care and support, as well as providing evidence for close family members to also be tested.