What is coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease (pronounced see-liac) is the name of a serious illness where your body's own tissue is attacked by your immune system when eating gluten. As a result, damage is caused to the lining of your small intestine, which means that your body can't absorb nutrients from food properly.
Coeliac disease isn't an allergy or an intolerance to gluten.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Common foods containing gluten are pasta, cereals, bread and biscuits.
Who's affected by Coeliac disease?
It is estimated that 1 in every 100 people have coeliac disease, but a staggering 70% of people with coeliac disease have not been diagnosed.
Coeliac disease is two or three times more common in women than it is men.
Although Coeliac disease can develop at any age, its more common to develop during early childhood (8-12 months old) or later adulthood (between 40 and 60 years of age).
Having an immediate family member such as your Mum, Dad, Sister, or Brother with coealiac disease, your chance of also having coeliac disease becomes 1 in 10.
Does having other health conditions increase the chance of developing coeliac disease?
A number of health conditions have been linked to increasing the chance of developing coeliac disease. Research has yet to figure out if the health conditions alone trigger coeliac disease, or both coeliac disease and the health condition are triggered by the same unknown underlying cause.
The health conditions linked with increasing the chance of developing coeliac disease are:
- Ulcerative colitis (inflammation of the large bowel)
- Type 1 diabetes
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
- Down's syndrome
- Turner syndrome
What are the symptoms of coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease has many symptoms ranging from mild to severe and often come and go rather than becoming consistant.
The symptoms related to the gut include:
- Flatulence (passing wind)
- Abdominal pain
Other more general symptoms include:
- Tingling and numbness in your hands and feet, known as peripheral neuropathy
- An itchy rash
- Difficulty getting pregnant
Fatigue (extreme tiredness) most commonly caused by iron deficiency anaemia or vitamin B12 folate deficiency anaemia
- Unexpected weight loss
- Swelling of the hands, arms, legs and feet caused by a build up of fluid (oedema)
- Disorders that affect co-ordination, balance and speech (ataxia)
- Nerve damage
What happens if coeliac disease goes untreated?
Malnutrition as a result of not being able to digest food properly and process the nutrients can cause you to feel very tired and lack energy.
In children, malnutrition can hinder their physical development and they may not grow at the average rate for weight and height for their age group. Children can also experience delayed puberty.
Are there any illnesses associated with coeliac disease?
Having an autoimmune response to gluten (coeliac disease) means you may experience a skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis which is itchy and can have blisters that pop when scratched. The rash is most commonly found on the knees, buttocks and elbows although it can form on any part of the body. The actual cause of dermatitis herpetiformis is currently unknown, but it has been linked to coeliac disease, with 1 in 5 diagnosed suffering with the associated rash. Just like coeliac disease, the rash symptoms should improve with switching to a gluten free diet.
What are the environmental factors associated with Coeliac disease?
Those who have had a previous digestive system infection such as rotavirus, during early childhood, are more likely to develop Coeliac disease than those who have not.
Evidence has shown that introducing foods containing gluten into your babies diet before 3 months old may increase their chances of developing Coeliac disease. Waiting until your child is at least 6 months old is recommended by most experts, before introducing gluten into their diet.
How is Coeliac disease treated?
Coeliac disease is treated simply by changing your diet to a gluten-free one for life. This means excluding all food items that contain gluten.
Most supermarkets and local shops stock a wide range of gluten-free products, making it easier for you to ensure that your diet remains gluten-free without having to give up the things you love.
You need to be careful with non food items as these can also contain gluten. Items such as; some types of medication, postage stamps and lipstick.
Whats included in the SELFCheck gluten sensitivity test?
The SELFCheck gluten sensitivity test includes:
- Foil pouch containing one test cassette and one pipette
- Sterile automatic safety lancet
- Plastic tube containing a thin glass tube
- Plastic tube containing liquid to dilute sample
- Alcohol swab and plaster
How do I use the SelfCheck gluten sensitivity test?
Warning: Starting a strick gluten free diet before being tested for Coeliac disease can cause false results.
To use the SELFCheck gluten sensitivity test:
- Remove the thin blue protector cap from the finger pricker by twisting and pulling straight off
- Gently massage your finger towards your finger tip, clean with the alcohol swab and wait until completely dry (your ring or middle finger is best)
- Whilst pressing the open end of the finger pricker firmly against the soft pad of your finger tip, press the blue button to activate the needle
- Carefully remove the thin glass capillary tube from the plastic tube
- gently squeeze a drop of blood from your finger tip
- Keeping the glass capillary tub horizontal, gently touch the blood drop with one end of the tube - hold the capillary tube against the blood drop until it is completely full
- Put the blood filled capillary tube into the tube containing the solution to dilute the blood, screw the cap back on and shake the tube several times to mix the blood with the solution. You can now clean your finger and apply the plaster
Performing the test:
- Let the solution settle to the bottom of the tube for a couple of minutes. Now, open the foil pouch containing your test cassette and pipette and place on a flat surface
- Suck up some of the diluted sample with the plastic pipette. Holding the pipette vertically place three drops into the well marked 'S' on the test cassette
- Do not touch or move the cassette for five minutes, then read your result. Do not read your test more than 10 minutes after adding your sample
Reading your results:
- If you can see two pink lines, one in the control section 'C' and another is the test section 'T' then this is a positive result. You should record a positive result even if the line in the test section 'T' is very faint
- If you can only see a pink line in the control section 'C' then you have a negative result
If after 10 minutes there is no line in the 'C' section then your result is invalid. It is highly unlikely that you will get an invalid result, the reason could be either you have not followed the procedure correctly or the test cassette is damaged.
A simple, quick test to be taken at home