80 per cent of coeliacs undiagnosed: new online tool to boost diagnosis

A new online assessment tool will help identify Australians living with coeliac disease.

It's feared more than a quarter of a million Australians have coeliac disease and don't know it.

estimates one in 70 Australians have coeliac disease but 80 per cent are undiagnosed.

To combat this they are launching a new online assessment tool to help identify those suspected of living with the serious bowel disease.

Coeliac Australia president Michael Bell said the health and wellbeing of tens of thousands of Australians can be improved once diagnosed and they start a gluten-free diet.

"It's a really hard disease to diagnose in the first place," he said. "There's various different symptoms; there can be some other auto-immune diseases that can show up, which may not necessarily be coeliac disease." 

People with coeliac disease are unable to eat gluten - a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. Currently there is no cure and the only treatment is a strict gluten free diet for life.

If left untreated coeliac disease can cause chronic ill health and lead to liver disease and cancer of the bowel.

Sydney father-of-three Adam Thomas was diagnosed with coeliac disease nine years ago.

"I was getting a lot of abdominal issues," he said. "I was in a lot of pain. It took a long time to be able to work out what it was. 

"At one point they thought it was appendicitis. They started looking for bowel cancers and stuff like that."

The typical symptoms of coeliac disease include gastrointestinal upsets, anaemia and nutrient deficiencies, fatigue and joint pain.

In young people it can cause growth and development problems.

Mr Thomas' diagnosis led to him getting his children tested. 12-year-old Callum and 10-year-old Joel both came back positive.

"When I started being gluten-free I felt a whole lot better," Joel said.

"We have to be really careful," Callum said. "When we go to a party we have to be checking all the packets.

"Before we were gluten-free everything felt not so well. We were exhausted and had stomach aches."

Coeliac Australia said family members of those with the condition have a 1 in 10 chance of also being affected.

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3 min read
Published 13 March 2017 at 12:08am
Source: SBS, AAP