How to know if you have coeliac disease

by The Listener / 18 June, 2018

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Coeliac New Zealand suggests you consider getting tested if you have some or all of the following symptoms, particularly if other family members have been diagnosed with coeliac disease.
  • Indigestion, abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Enamel defects on teeth
  • Hair loss
  • Persistent raised liver enzymes with unknown cause
  • Anaemia (usually resulting from iron deficiency)
  • Folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies
  • Fatigue and generalised weakness
  • Muscle cramps due to low calcium levels
  • Blistering, itchy or painful rash – particularly about the knees, elbows, buttocks and back (which could be dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Early-onset low bone density (osteoporosis)
Kristin Kenrick.

Kristin Kenrick.

RelatedArticlesModule - How to know coeliac disease

Survey shows GPs are mostly on the ball

Kristin Kenrick knows how tricky it can be to pick up the signs of coeliac disease. A GP and a senior lecturer at the Dunedin School of Medicine, she managed to miss them in herself.

“It hadn’t occurred to me I might have it,” she says. “With the symptoms I had – some irritable bowel and iron deficiency off and on – I thought everyone had the same thing.”

When she went to her GP concerned about her young daughter’s health, she was tested. “It turned out I had coeliac disease and she didn’t.”

Becoming involved with Coeliac New Zealand, Kenrick found herself hearing stories from other sufferers about how long it took to get a diagnosis. “I wanted to find out what the situation was really like, find the gaps in GP knowledge. I thought, ‘If I couldn’t recognise it in myself, how many patients have I missed it in?’”

Kenrick surveyed almost 700 GPs to find out how likely they were to test for the condition in various circumstances. Most were checking for it when presented with patients complaining of chronic diarrhoea, iron deficiency or irritable bowel. But other, less common symptoms were more likely to be missed: mouth ulcers, chronic constipation, reduced bone density, autoimmune thyroid disease and unexplained infertility.

The CNZ website includes a self-assessment tool and a referral letter to take to a GP to ensure the right tests are performed. Coeliac Awareness Week runs from June 18-24.

This article was first published in the June 2, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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