One in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease, while, current research indicates that only 24% of those with the condition are diagnosed, leaving an estimated half a million people in the UK struggling with undiagnosed coeliac disease5. Undiagnosed coeliac disease can lead to a number of complications including osteoporosis, fertility problems and, in rare cases, small bowel cancer if left untreated.
Almost a quarter (23%) of British adults recalled being told they were anaemic following a blood test, according to a recent YouGov survey¹ for Coeliac UK; the charity is concerned that as anaemia is experienced in up to 50% of patients with coeliac disease at diagnosis, many with anaemia may have undiagnosed coeliac disease.
Iron-deficiency anaemia is experienced by 2-5% of men and postmenopausal women and 5-12% of premenopausal women in the UK at any time², but occurs in some 30-50% of patients with coeliac disease at diagnosis³. NICE Guidance for the recognition, assessment and management of coeliac disease recommends that GPs screen patients with recurring or unexplained iron, B12 or folate deficiency anaemia for coeliac disease4.
Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK the national charity for people with coeliac disease said: "Recurring or unexplained anaemia, is a key symptom to help in the search for those with undiagnosed coeliac disease. These people are probably suffering in silence, taking supplements and worrying about what's causing their anaemia off and on for years, when a simple blood test for coeliac disease might just reveal the answer and change their life for the better, forever."
The charity recommends those wondering if they need to be tested for coeliac disease to take its online assessment, which allows people to check symptoms and related conditions and advises whether they should go to their GP to be screened. Since the assessment was launched under a year ago, over 30,000 people have taken the questionnaire. From feedback, the initial results suggest that around 8% of those who were recommended to seek testing went on to be diagnosed with coeliac disease.
¹ All survey figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,041 adults of which 456 had been told they are anaemic. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th - 26th February 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
²Goddard AF et al. (2011) Guidelines for the management of iron deficiency anaemia. Gut 60; 10; 1309-16
³Ludvigsson J F et al. (2013) Use of computerised algorithm to identify individuals in need to testing for coeliac disease , J Am Med Inform Assoc 20: e2; e306-e310
4 NICE Guideline NG20 Coeliac disease: recognition, assessment and management, September 2015
5 West J et al. (2014) Incidence and prevalence of celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis in the UK over two decades: population-based study. Am J Gastroenterol 109: 5; 757-768