Coeliac disease is a genetically based permanent intolerance to dietary gluten. Gluten is a protein found in Wheat, barley, oats, rye.
Last updated: 06 November 2007
What is Coeliac Disease?
Coeliac disease is a genetically based permanent intolerance to dietary gluten. Gluten is a protein found in Wheat, barley, oats, rye. Untreated, it can result in malabsorption and a predisposition to gastrointestional malignancy, particularly carcinoma of the oropharynx and oesophagus, and small bowel lymphoma. The disease may present in either children or adults.
What is the cause?
In coeliac disease the cells of the small bowel (intestine) are damaged (villous atrophy). This causes a flattening of the tiny, finger like projections, called villi, which line the inside of the bowel. The function of the cells on normal villi is to break down and absorb nutrients in food. In coeliac disease, these cells become flat and inflamed and the surface area, which enables the absorption of nutrients and minerals from food, is seriously depleted.
The incidence of coeliac disease in a number of European countries is estimated at least 1 in 100, with slightly more women than men being affected. Growing awareness of coeliac disease, better diagnoses, and improved screening, point to the possibility of similar figures in Australia.
The presentation of coeliac disease is changing, and typical malabsorption is one of many presentations. Patients are likely to present with non-specific symptoms or with iron and / or folate deficiency or unexplained early onset of osteoporosis.
Additional Symptoms in Children
Diagnosis relies upon proving that the small bowel lining shows the typical damage (villous atrophy). This is done by endoscopy, preferable with multiple biopsies of the distal duodenum and proximal jejunum. A specific
A gluten free diet should never be started before an endoscopy or blood tests, as it will interfere with establishing the correct diagnosis and may delay the diagnosis of another condition with similar symptoms.
How is the condition treated?
The only treatment for coeliac disease is a strict, lifelong gluten free diet. By specifically removing the cause of the disease, this treatment allows all abnormalities, including that of the bowel lining, to recover and will reduce the risk of developing other associated diseases.
For more information on coeliac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis and the gluten free diet, please contact :
The Coeliac Society of NSW Inc, P O Box 721, Wahroonga NSW 2076
|Further information - Public Health Units in NSW|
|For more information please contact your doctor, local public health unit or community health centre - look under NSW Government at the front of the White Pages|
|Metropolitan Areas||Location||Number||Rural Areas||Location||Number|
|Northern Sydney||Hornsby||02 9477 9400||Greater Southern||Goulburn||02 4824 1837|
|Central Coast||Gosford||02 4349 4845||Albury||02 6080 8900|
|South Eastern Sydney||Randwick||02 9382 8333||Greater Western||Broken Hill||08 8080 1499|
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|Sydney South West||Camperdown||02 9515 9420||Bathurst||02 6339 5601|
|Sydney West||Penrith||02 4734 2022||Hunter/New England||Newcastle||02 4924 6477|
|Parramatta||02 9840 3603||Tamworth||02 6764 8000|
|Justice Health Service||Matraville||02 9311 2707||North Coast||Port Macquarie||02 6588 2750|
|Lismore||02 6620 7585|