New research from the University of Nottingham that has found a four-fold increase in the rate of diagnosed cases of coeliac disease in the UK over the past two decades.
The research which was funded by Coeliac UK, the national charity for coeliac disease, and CORE (the national charity committed to fighting all diseases of the gut, liver and pancreas) said that in spite of this increase, three quarters of people with coeliac disease still remain undiagnosed.
The National Institute of Health & Care Excellence (NICE) previously estimated that only 10 - 15% of those with coeliac disease had been diagnosed, however, the latest research by Dr Joe West, has shown that the level of diagnosis has increased to 24%.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten. Left untreated it may lead to infertility, osteoporosis and small bowel cancer. One in 100 people in the UK have coeliac disease, with the prevalence rising to one in 10 for close family members
The only treatment for coeliac disease is a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye and, once diagnosed, people with coeliac disease need to eliminate all gluten-containing foods and make sure they only eat gluten-free varieties.
Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK said: "This latest research shows that nearly a quarter of people with coeliac disease have now been diagnosed and gives an up to date picture of the diagnosis levels across the UK.
This research, published by The American Journal of Gastroenterology comes out as the charity celebrates its annual awareness campaign which this year is entitled the 'Gluten-free Guarantee' and aims to improve availability of gluten-free foods across the UK.
The symptoms of coeliac disease range from mild to severe and can vary between individuals. Not everyone with coeliac 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, diarrhoea, and wind, and other common symptoms include extreme tiredness, anaemia, headaches and mouth ulcers, weight loss (but not in all cases), skin problems, depression, and joint or bone pain.