Getting Diagnosed

Getting Diagnosed

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with coeliac disease, we recommend that you visit your doctor to request a test. Although awareness of coeliac disease is rising, Coeliac UK report that the average time for someone to be diagnosed with the condition is thirteen years. This can be because they are misdiagnosed with other conditions. Read our article about why getting a diagnosis of coeliac disease is so important here.

How do I get diagnosed with coeliac disease?

1. Blood Test

The first stage when testing for coeliac disease is a blood test that looks for certain types of gluten-related antibodies. This test can be carried out by your GP.

If this test result is positive then you should be referred to a gut specialist (gastroenterologist) at your local hospital.

It is essential to continue to consume gluten regularly throughout the diagnosis process. Do NOT start a gluten-free diet until your diagnosis has been confirmed by a specialist, even if your blood test result is positive. It is recommended you consume gluten in at least one meal a day for six weeks prior to undergoing these tests.

2. Biopsy

If your blood test is positive then you will be referred onto a consultant at the hospital for a procedure known as an endoscopy. An endoscopy will allow your gastroenterologist to look at the health of your small intestines more closely. During the endoscopy a biopsy of your gut will be taken, this can be studied under a microscope to confirm a diagnosis of coeliac disease.  However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a change to current guidance meaning that for some adults with very high antibody levels, diagnosis of coeliac disease can be confirmed with a further blood test and without the need for a biopsy.

Diagnosing coeliac disease in children

For children, a gut biopsy may not be necessary in some cases. Guidelines recommend those children with symptoms whose blood tests show a high level of antibodies and who carry the right genes for coeliac disease, may not need a biopsy to confirm diagnosis. Your child’s GP should refer them to a paediatric gastroenterologist to make sure the correct tests are carried out.

Treatment for coeliac disease

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How long does a diagnosis take?

Delayed diagnosis of coeliac disease is common due to the fact there is a wide range of symptoms associated with the condition. As the symptoms can be very similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), around 1 in 4 people with coeliac disease are first diagnosed with IBS by mistake. This means it can take a while before an accurate diagnosis is made. Research undertaken by Coeliac UK, the national patient charity for people with coeliac disease, shows the average time to diagnosis is 13 years from the onset of symptoms.

If you are experiencing symptoms and suspect you may have coeliac disease, the first step could be to take an online assessment- a short questionnaire asking about your symptoms and other risk factors. If the assessment indicates that you might have coeliac disease, the next step would be to make an appointment with your GP who can then undertake a blood test to check for coeliac antibodies.

If the result of your blood test is positive, your GP should refer you to the hospital for further tests in order to confirm a diagnosis of coeliac disease. It is important not to remove gluten from your diet during the diagnosis process.

Is there an average age range more likely to be diagnosed?

It is possible for coeliac disease to develop and be diagnosed at any age. However, coeliac disease is most frequently diagnosed in people between 40-60 years of age.

Traditionally, coeliac disease was seen as a disease of childhood. Children presented with classic malabsorption symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, weight loss and failure to thrive. However, as further research was undertaken it was increasingly recognised that both adults and children could develop coeliac disease and the pattern of symptoms was changing from not only gut-related symptoms but also non gut-related symptoms such as neurological complications, fatigue, anaemia and mouth ulcers.

© 2021. Glutafin. Dr. Schär UK Ltd. 401 Faraday Street, Birchwood Park, Warrington, WA3 6GA
© 2021. Glutafin. Dr. Schär UK Ltd. 401 Faraday Street, Birchwood Park, Warrington, WA3 6GA