Coeliac disease is an immune-mediated systemic disorder caused by ingestion of gluten. The condition presents classically with gastrointestinal signs including diarrhoea, bloating, weight loss and abdominal pain, but presentations can include extra-intestinal symptoms such as iron-deficiency anaemia, faltering growth, delayed puberty and mouth ulcers. Some children are at higher risk of developing coeliac disease, for example those with a strong family history, certain genetic disorders and other autoimmune conditions. If coeliac disease is suspected, serological screening with anti-tissue transglutaminase titres should be performed and the diagnosis may be confirmed by small bowel biopsy while the child remains on a normal (gluten-containing) diet. Modified European guidelines recommend that symptomatic children with anti-tissue transglutaminase titres more than ten times the upper limit of normal, and positive human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 status, do not require small bowel biopsy for diagnosis of coeliac disease. Management of the disease involves strict adherence to a lifelong gluten-free diet, which should lead to resolution of symptoms and prevention of long-term complications. Healthcare professionals should be aware of the varied presentations of coeliac disease to ensure timely screening and early initiation of a gluten-free diet.
Nursing Standard. 29, 49, 36-41. doi: 10.7748/ns.29.49.36.e10022Correspondence
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Received: 02 March 2015
Accepted: 20 March 2015
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