The Coeliac Society of Ireland is encouraging GPs to help identify undiagnosed coeliac disease sufferers in Ireland by simply ticking a box when they order blood tests for patients.
Studies across several EU member states of Europe have indicated that approximately 1% of the population suffer from coeliac disease, a figure which rises to 10% if a member of the family has the disease.
In Ireland there is no national register of how many people in Ireland have the disease but, based on European averages, the Coeliac Society of Ireland estimates that 12,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease and as many as 47,500 are affected.
If unmanaged, coeliac disease prevents sufferers from properly absorbing nutrients from the food they consume and can have long-term health implications, including malnourishment, loss of bone density, miscarriages, infertility and even neurological conditions.
The Coeliac Society of Ireland is asking GPs to routinely tick a box to include the disease when sending patients’ bloods for testing, even if their symptoms might not seem directly related to gluten intolerance.
It can take up to ten years to receive an official diagnosis of coeliac disease as symptoms can be wide-ranging and are often confused for other conditions.
Symptoms can include abdominal bloating, wind or stomach pains, constipation, weight loss and migraines.
The only treatment is a strict gluten free diet.