The Coeliac Society and the Irish College of General Practitioners have published new guidelines on the diagnosis and management of adult coeliac disease. These guidelines put in place a framework for the early identification and treatment of patients with coeliac disease in primary healthcare.
This guide outlines 50 different indicators that are identified as the clinical presentation of coeliac disease for GPs and health practitioners. These include conditions such as osteoporosis, anaemia, mouth ulcers, heartburn, diarrhoea, constipation, and infertility.
An estimated 400,000 people in Ireland suffer from gluten intolerance. Some 50,000 of these will suffer from lifelong autoimmune coeliac disease, for which there is no cure, and which poses significant health risks if left unchecked.
Gill Brennan, CEO, Coeliac Society Ireland, said: "This document is one of the most significant pieces of work addressing the issues of coeliac disease in many years, given that the importance of an early diagnosis cannot be underestimated.
"We know that over 70 per cent of current sufferers are undiagnosed. There is no cure and, if left untreated, as is currently the case for many sufferers, it can result in a range of significant health risks including cancer and infertility."
According to the Coeliac Society another important aspect contained in the new guidelines is the inclusion of a clear long-term care plan. Currently the only treatment is a strict lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet. Studies have shown that dietary compliance is often poor if not followed up by those caring for the patient.
Richelle Flanagan, contributing author and board member of the Coeliac Society of Ireland said: "When adopted these guidelines will prevent needless delays in diagnosis while also providing medical practitioners with a clear treatment path to follow.
"The guidelines acknowledge that the only treatment for the disease is a strict lifelong adherence to a gluten free diet and that dietary compliance without continuing support is often poor. As a result, sufferers may present later with long-term health issues placing a further - and wholly preventable - burden on our health system."