Starting on the 13th of May, through to the 19th of May 2019, is Coeliac UK Awareness Week. The aim of this week is to raise as much awareness for coeliac disease as possible, and to inform the community of what coeliac disease is and how it affects those around us that suffer from it.
What is coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease caused by a reaction to gluten. When someone with coeliac disease eats gluten, the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. This causes damage to the lining of the gut and means that the body can’t absorb nutrients properly. Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or an intolerance.
There is no cure and once diagnosed you have to stick to a strict gluten free diet for life. Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK but only 30% have been diagnosed which means there are nearly half a million people who have the condition but don’t know it.
What are the symptoms?
Undiagnosed coeliac disease causes a wide range of symptoms and it affects people in different ways. Lots of people get diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as the symptoms are often similar. If you have IBS it is important to make sure that you’ve been tested for coeliac disease in case you are one of the 1 in 4 people who are following IBS treatment when you actually have coeliac disease.
Symptoms of undiagnosed coeliac disease include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramps
- Weight loss/gain
- Regular mouth ulcers
- Skin rash
In undiagnosed coeliac disease, there’s a greater risk of complications including osteoporosis, infertility, neurological conditions such as gluten ataxia and neuropathy and, although rare, an increased risk of small bowel cancer and intestinal lymphoma.
The aim of Coeliac UK Awareness Week
The aim of this week is to help people recognise these symptoms and go seek help, because while awareness of coeliac disease is spreading, there is still a very low awareness for the symptoms of the disease. This week aims to bring more awareness to the estimated half a million people living with the disease undiagnosed.
How can you help?
You can help spread awareness of coeliac disease by sharing the advertisements which will be spread during the week through social media and by getting the word out there to as many people as possible.