What is Coeliac Disease?
Coeliac Disease (CD) is an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of essential nutrients from food. People who have CD cannot tolerate gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins and lip balms.
When people with CD eat foods containing gluten (or use products containing gluten), this triggers a severe autoimmune response which damages the tiny, finger-like protrusions (villi) lining the small intestine. Villi enable nutrients to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person rapidly becomes malnourished, regardless of how much food is consumed.
CD affects approximately 1 in 100 people and can occur at any age. Under-diagnosis, however, is a major factor. According to Coeliac UK, only 10-15% of sufferers are clinically diagnosed. If a first degree family member (mother, father, sister or brother) has the condition, then the chance of developing the disease increases to 1 in 10.
Coeliac disease is not curable. It is a permanent, life-long condition and there is no medication available to treat the disease. However, damage to the small intestine is reversible, so patients should follow a gluten-free diet to eliminate all foods derived from wheat, rye or barley (and oats if contaminated with wheat). If a gluten-free diet is strictly adhered to, the intestinal villi can recover and patients should experience an improvement in symptoms.
Symptoms of Coeliac disease:
CD is associated with a wide variety of symptoms:
• Weight loss
• Abdominal discomfort
• Mouth ulcers
Because of the broad range of symptoms, CD is difficult to diagnose. Left undiagnosed, CD can increase susceptibility to life-threatening conditions such as osteoporosis, central nervous system diseases, internal haemorrhages and certain cancers (lymphomas), so early detection is vital.
While an intestinal biopsy remains the “gold standard” method for diagnosing CD, it is highly invasive for the patient. However, blood tests are now available to screen for CD by detecting specific antibodies commonly associated with the condition.
How does the test work?
The Coeliac Screen (tTG) test is an ELISA-based method for the detection of circulating IgA and IgG antibodies raised against tissue Transglutaminase (tTG):
Studies have shown that IgA antibodies to tTG – an enzyme present in the connective tissue of the gut – are also strongly associated with the presence of CD. tTG IgA antibodies are highly sensitive (95% -100%) and specific (90%-97%) for CD.
Patients with CD can exhibit IgA-deficiency. In such cases, the tTG IgA test will produce a negative result. A tTG IgG test is then recommended to prevent false negative results being obtained (NICE clinical guideline 86).
Simply collect a finger-prick blood sample using the components provided in the Sample Collection Pack and send to the CNS Laboratory using the pre-paid envelop supplied.
Results are available within 10 working days.
You should consult a medical professional if your test results are above normal range.
While there is no cure for CD, strict adherence to a gluten-free diet can reverse the damage caused to the intestinal villi, often resulting in an improvement in symptoms.