Twenty three percent of British adults recalled being told they were anaemic following a blood test, according to a recent YouGov survey (1) 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 time (2), but occurs in some 30-50% of patients with coeliac disease at diagnosis (3). 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 disease (4).
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 disease (5). Undiagnosed coeliac disease can lead to a number of complications including osteoporosis, fertility problems and, in rare cases, small bowel cancer if left untreated.
The charity recommends those wondering if they need to be tested for coeliac disease to take its online assessment at www.isitcoeliacdisease.org.uk 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.
Being anaemic most commonly describes a person with low levels of iron in their blood, known as iron deficiency anaemia. But there are other forms of anaemia associated with undiagnosed coeliac disease linked to low levels of vitamins in the blood, low levels of vitamin B12 or low levels of another B vitamin, folic acid. Anaemia is generally identified by having a blood test and should be checked out by a healthcare professional to determine its cause.
Although not everyone with coeliac disease will experience them, other symptoms of coeliac disease may include frequent bouts of diarrhoea, stomach pain and cramping, regular mouth ulcers, ongoing fatigue, lots of gas and bloating, nausea and vomiting. It is not an allergy or an intolerance but a serious autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system damages the lining of the small bowel when gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, is eaten. There is no cure and no medication; coeliac disease is a life long illness, the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet for life.
Although the gluten-free diet is the only treatment for the condition it is essential that no one removes gluten from their diet until the full diagnosis has been completed as you have to be consuming it every day for six weeks to ensure accurate blood test results.
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
Taken from a CUK press release.
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