There is increasing interest in point-of-care tests and the role they may have in improving the detection of coeliac disease. The aim of this article is to review the assessment and diagnosis of patients with suspected coeliac disease in general practice, considering the potential implications a missed diagnosis may have on patients and health professionals. The emerging point-of-care tests will be evaluated as diagnostic tools and their potential relevance to nurses discussed.
Coeliac disease: epidemiology
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease characterised by a heightened immunological response to ingested gluten (from wheat, barley or rye) in genetically susceptible individuals carrying either the HLA DQ2 or DQ8 genotype.1 Historically coeliac disease was considered an uncommon condition, but in the last 10 years European studies have demonstrated higher prevalence rates at about 1 per cent.2,3
The most frequent age of presentation of coeliac disease is between the fourth and sixth decade of life. While coeliac disease is twice as common in females as in males, the greatest risk factor for developing coeliac disease is having a first-degree relative with the condition.