Importance of medical diagnosis
Getting your doctor to confirm a diagnosis of coeliac disease is important for many reasons, including:
- To make sure your symptoms are not another medical problem. Symptoms of coeliac disease can be similar to other medical conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome and non coeliac gluten sensitivity. It is important to know what is causing your symptoms.
- To minimise the risk of associated health complications. There are serious problems associated with coeliac disease such as osteoporosis, small bowel cancer and increased risk of other autoimmune diseases. People with coeliac disease need to have regular follow up and ongoing support.
- To understand the gluten-free diet as the only treatment. Following a lifelong gluten-free diet will be a big change to your eating and shopping habits. You may need help to choose safe foods and keep a balanced diet. If your child has coeliac disease, monitoring their growth and development is very important.
- To be able to get gluten-free foods on prescription. People who are medically diagnosed with coeliac disease are able to receive prescriptions for gluten-free substitute products which can help you maintain the diet.
- To make sure family members are aware of the condition as it can run in families. If a first degree relative has coeliac disease then prevalence increases to 1 in 10. Awareness of a medical diagnosis of coeliac disease within a family can help identify the disease if a relative also has or develops symptoms. This is known as screening.
Professor David Sanders (Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield and Chair of Coeliac UK Health Advisory Council) explains why testing for coeliac disease is so important: