How common is it?
Coeliac diseaseA condition where a person is unable to eat gluten as it makes their body attack itself.
is common and affects 1 in 100 people, however only 10-15% are diagnosed.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of coeliac disease (spelt celiac in America) vary from person to person and can range from very mild to severe.
Possible symptoms may include:
- diarrhoea, excessive wind, and/or constipation
- persistent or unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting
- recurrent stomach pain, cramping or bloating
- any combination of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency
- tiredness and/or headaches
- weight loss (but not in all cases)
- mouth ulcers
- hair loss (alopecia)
- skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformisUsually shortened to DH, this is a form of coeliac disease where the skin is affected with small blisters. (DH))
- tooth enamel problems
- osteoporosisA condition where your bones lose bone mass and become brittle.
- repeated miscarriages
- joint and/or bone pain
- neurological (nerve) problems such as ataxia (poor muscle co-ordination) and neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the hands and feet).
Some symptoms may be mistaken as Irritable bowel syndrome (IBSIrritable bowel syndrome - a common but poorly understood chronic (long-term) condition where the normal functions of the bowel are disrupted) or wheat intoleranceFood intolerance is generally not life threatening but affects digestion, including symptoms of digestive discomfort, diarrhoea and bloating. Coeliac disease is not an intolerance to gluten.
. Stress or getting older can also be a cause of confusion.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be underweight or have lost weight to have coeliac disease. Most people are of normal weight or even overweight at diagnosis.
What about children?
In babies, symptoms may develop after weaning onto cereals which contain glutenA protein that is found in the cereals wheat, barley and rye.
Other symptoms in young children include:
- muscle wasting in the arms and legs
- bloated tummy
- failure to gain weight or lose weight after previously growing well
Symptoms in older children vary as they do in adults.
What should I do if I think I have coeliac disease?
If you think you or your child has coeliac disease, you must keep eating gluten and speak to your/their GPGeneral Practitioner, or local doctor for advice. Steps to diagnosis are on our How to get diagnosed page.
You can also contact one of our dietitians by email through our contact form, or on our HelplineOur Helpline is staffed by dietitians and food experts. You can call them on 0845 305 2060.; 0845 305 2060 (Open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday).
If you, or your child, are medically diagnosed with coeliac disease or DH, you can join Coeliac UK as a Member. A parent/carer of a child under 16 with coeliac disease can join as a Member on their behalf. As a Member you can receive invaluable help and information about managing a gluten-free diet. Some of our Member benefits include:
- Food and Drink DirectoryCoeliac UK’s key source of information listing thousands of foods that can be included in a gluten-free diet.
- book listing around 10,000 products that are safe to eat
- Crossed GrainMagazine - our magazine, issued three times a year
- Diet & Health Helpline - call our expert team on 0845 305 2060
- Local Voluntary Support Groups - meet up with other Members in your area
- Other publications - information sheets and booklets to help you manage your condition and diet available in the Members section of our website
- Online services such as eXGOur online email newsletter which is sent to our Members each month.
, our monthly electronic newsletter, our venue guide, recipe database and electronic Food and Drink Directory
For more information about becoming a Member please visit our joining page.