London: Four out of five people with coeliac disease remain undiagnosed in the UK thats almost 500,000 people.
Left undiagnosed, coeliac disease can increase the risk of serious health problems including osteoporosis, infertility and cancer. An even more shocking statistic is that members of the awareness organisation Coeliac UK state that waiting times between their initial visit to the doctor and correct diagnosis can be anything up to 13.1 years.
According to experts, coeliac disease affects neither one gender more than the other. However, membership of Coeliac UK comprises a just one third male to two thirds female ratio. A spokesperson for Coeliac UK says that this is due to the fact that not enough men are putting themselves forward for diagnosis.
Neil Dorman, a 44-year-old carpenter from Twickenham, Middlesex, has his step-daughter Charlotte to thank for saving his life.
People thought I was dying, but were too polite to say so, says Neil.
Up until five years ago, Neil had been relatively healthy. He had never been ill but suddenly found himself going through a deep, dark depression, and with falling energy levels he decided to take himself off to his GP where he had his blood levels checked and was found to be woefully lacking in iron.
I felt tired all the time and people kept saying that I looked really ill, tired, and that I had lost a lot of weight – which I had. It was a gradual thing but by the end of the year I was gaunt-faced, and looked almost
ghostly with wide sunken eyes.
A full six months went by from my osteopath finding low levels of iron in my blood before I was sent to a bowel specialist and being diagnosed as a coeliac at the end of July this year.
Now following a completely gluten-free diet, Neil says he is feeling much better. However, because he lived so many years oblivious of his gluten-intolerant condition, the downside is he is left with a chronic
condition to manage and has to have regular endoscopies every six months. He therefore urges other people to get tested, if they think they are at risk.
Average age of diagnosis is between 40 -60 and it is a genetic disease – studies show that if a family member has coeliac disease there is an increased risk of one in 10 to other family members (Ref 1).
The Biocard Celiac Test, which is designed to be taken at home, analyses a drop of blood for the presence of substances called tissue transglutaminase antibodies. In an independent trial (Makki, 2006), the test proved 96% accurate compared with hospital-based tests. People who receive a positive result are advised to ask their GP for further tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Commenting on the new Biocard Celiac Test, Professor David Van Heel, consultant gastroenterologist, Barts & The London, says: This test is one of the most accurate we currently have in UK medicine and by making it available to the general public in this easy to use format it will not only support earlier diagnosis but also increase the number of sufferers correctly identified.
When you identify a sufferer you know their family is in a higher risk group as immediate relatives are around ten times more likely to also have the condition. Close family members might also benefit from taking this simple test to rule out the condition.
Coeliac disease is caused by an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. When a coeliac sufferer eats something containing gluten, their digestive system becomes inflamed and they are unable to absorb food properly, which means they can become deficient in essential nutrients such as calcium and iron. The only treatment for coeliac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet.
Priced £19.99, the Biocard Coeliac Test is distributed by Xtritica Medical and is now available from Boots pharmacies in the UK and online at www.xtritica.com or on +44 (0)870 777 9404.