Recent reports suggest that Coeliac disease has tripled among children in the UK over the last 20 years, however children from poorer families are only half as likely to be diagnosed.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune reaction where the body attacks itself when gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye cereals, is eaten.
It should not be confused with gluten insensitivity which causes discomfort in the digestive system when gluten or wheat is eaten. Coeliac sufferers experience an autoimmune response with symptoms that require medication and in rare situations, hospitalisation.
In order to assess current diagnostic patterns, researchers from the University of Nottingham identified all children from birth up to 18 years old, registered with general practices across the UK between 1993 and 2012. They used an anonymised UK database called The Health Improvement Network (THIN) to compile the data for their research which was then published in the medical journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.
The study shows that approximately 1 per cent of children have been diagnosed with ‘blood markers’ for the disorder. The study also reports that the diagnosis rate between 2008 and 2012 was a worrying 75 per cent higher than it was between 1993 and 1997.
They also discovered a 53 per cent rise in diagnoses amongst girls whilst the discovery in boys increased by 39 per cent during the same period. The research found there was no distinction in the data for children across all four UK countries. However, the research showed that children from known ‘socio-economically deprived areas’ were half as likely to be diagnosed compared to those children who came from better off families.
The researchers believe that this significant rise in new cases results from better awareness and more readily available information about the disease. Doctors are now better equipped for diagnosis but despite finding conclusive evidence in their report, researchers are still no closer to explaining the socioeconomic gaps in diagnosis.
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