It's feared more than a quarter of a million Australians have coeliac disease and don't know it.
Some new estimates from Coeliac Australia have 1 in 70 Australians suffering the condition, and about 80% of those are undiagnosed.
Sufferers of coeliac disease are unable to eat gluten - a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. Currently there is no cure and the only treatment is a strict gluten free diet for life. If left untreated, it can cause chronic ill health and lead to liver disease and cancer of the bowel.
- Family members of people with coeliac disease have a 1 in 10 chance of also being affected.
- 15 per cent of people with coeliac disease have another autoimmune disease.
- Untreated, coeliac disease is associated with a three-fold increased risk of autoimmune disease (such as autoimmune thyroid or liver disease and type 1 diabetes), osteoporosis, malignancy (such as lymphoma) and up to a four-fold increase in mortality.
- Early diagnosis and treatment of coeliac disease may avoid many such complications.
- Severity of symptoms does not reflect damage to the small bowel.
- Some patients do not exhibit symptoms but may have fertility issues or early onset osteoporosis.
- Undiagnosed coeliac disease can cause a wide range of other conditions such as dental enamel defects, mouth ulcers, alopecia and osteoporosis.
If you are worried you might be at risk, there's now a quick online test to help check out your symptoms at Coeliac Australia's website. If risk factors are identified, you can download a letter to take to their GP with details of their assessment.