Serenity Gastroenterology

Things You Didnt Know About Coeliac Disease

Serenity Gastroenterology

Coeliac Disease


Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten. For those with coeliac disease eating gluten causes inflammation and damage to the small bowel, triggering uncomfortable symptoms. 

It is estimated 1 in 70 Australians have coeliac disease, though, around 80% don’t know it. 

For some, the symptoms of coeliac disease are vague and easily mistaken for other conditions. Unfortunately, without diagnosis and treatment, coeliac disease can lead to some serious health problems.  

A lot of people know at least a little about Coeliac disease, and you can read more about it on our conditions page here

But what do you know about the lesser known symptoms?


1. Coeliac disease can cause a rash 

For some, coeliac disease is associated with a rash called dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). Unfortunately, the rash, even when only mild, can be extremely itchy and uncomfortable.  

DH tends to appear in predictable locations including the elbows, knees, buttocks, ears, shoulder blades, and in the eyebrows and hairline, and is often symmetrical on both sides. 

While medication may be used to manage the symptoms of the rash, the DH treatment is the same as the treatment of coeliac disease, sticking to a
gluten-free diet. 

It’s important to note, not everyone with coeliac disease develops DH. 


2. If your first-degree relative has coeliac disease, you might too 

Coeliac Disease is hereditary.  This means it runs in families.  

If one of your parents, children, or siblings is diagnosed, you have a 1 in 10 chance of having the condition too. Because of your higher risk, you should get tested too, even if you don’t have symptoms.


3. Coeliac disease can occur at any age  

While Coeliac disease can develop at any stage of life, from infancy through to older adulthood, It’s most commonly diagnosed for the first time in people between 30 and 60 years old. 


4. Coeliac disease goes back to the Neanderthals  

Researchers believe coeliac disease is directly tied to our neanderthal ancestors’ DNA. 

As we know, our risk of developing coeliac disease is higher if we have specific genetic variants. It’s believed many of those variants were inherited from the Neanderthals. 


5. Coeliac disease may go hand in hand with other conditions 

Did you know, people with coeliac disease have an increased incidence of microscopic colitis and inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)? These conditions also affect the gut and can cause similar symptoms to coeliac disease, complicating diagnosis. 

Also, approximately 20% of people with coeliac disease have another autoimmune disorder (such as rheumatoid arthritis, Type I diabetes, or thyroiditis).
This is likely because people who have one autoimmune disorder have a higher chance of developing another. 


6. Coeliac disease can be tricky to diagnose 

Coeliac disease symptoms can vary significantly between people. There are over 200 symptoms associated with the disease.  While some people may become very unwell, others might have no symptoms at all. For many, coeliac symptoms can be vague and are often mistaken for other conditions.  


7. Delayed diagnosis can have long-term health effects. 

Diagnosis and treatment of Coeliac disease are essential for preventing long-term health effects. Without timely diagnosis, coeliac disease can double your risk of developing coronary artery disease and quadruple your risk of developing intestinal cancers

Untreated coeliac disease can contribute to the development of some autoimmune disorders including type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis as well as other conditions.

It can also be linked to anaemia, infertility, miscarriage, osteoporosis, epilepsy, thyroid disease, and more.  

A definitive diagnosis of coeliac disease can only be made by looking inside your small bowel during a gastroscopy, taking a biopsy of damaged tissue and analysing it in a laboratory. 


*All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Serenity Gastroenterology can consult with you regarding your individual health needs.