EXPERTS have launched a campaign to highlight a disease which can be a lifelong condition.
Dietitians at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust are raising awareness of coeliac disease.
As a dietitian I see just how challenging living with coeliac disease can be, but the condition can be treated when people begin to manage their diet and avoid products containing gluten.Kirsty McLean, dietitian
They are doing it by spreading the word about the disease during Coeliac Awareness Week, which runs until May 17.
Coeliac disease is a life-long condition which is caused by the immune system reacting to a protein called gluten.
Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye, as well as in foods such as bread, pasta, pizza, cereals and cakes.
Around one in 100 people have coeliac disease.
Health officials say the symptoms of coeliac disease vary between individuals, but not everyone with coeliac disease will have the same symptoms.
Thosee symptoms can include bloating, changes in bowel habits, unintentional weight loss, nausea and tiredness as well as iron deficiency.
Dietitian Kirsty MacLean, who works at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As a dietitian I see just how challenging living with coeliac disease can be, but the condition can be treated when people begin to manage their diet and avoid products containing gluten.
“If you have symptoms of coeliac disease, you should talk to your GP and not just remove gluten from your diet.
“People can develop the condition at any age. Screening involves having a simple blood test and is often recommended if there is a family history of coeliac disease, as it can run in families.”
Kirsty added: “Further investigations may be required.”
She also explained the implications of avoiding expert help for the condition.
She said: “Left untreated it may lead to iron deficiency anaemia, osteoporosis and an increased risk of small bowel cancer.
“If you have had a positive diagnosis the only treatment is a gluten-free diet for life.
“It is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet of gluten free foods and to understand the risks of cross-contamination, for example, using the same butter that someone else has used who is not on a gluten free diet.
“Working with your dietitian and being aware of gluten-free food products to manage your diet can make a big difference to the symptoms and risks of untreated coeliac disease.”
People wanting to know more can find more information about coeliac disease by visiting www.coeliac.org.uk/home/