Medical Q&As

Coeliac disease - diagnosis?

What tests can be done to determine whether I am a coeliac or not. There is a history of it in the family and I would like to check it out as I feel I have some of the symptoms.

Coeliac disease is due to sensitivity to gluten, which is present in wheat, rye, oats, barley and a hybrid grain called triticale (wheat crossed with rye). When gluten comes into contact with the intestinal lining of a person who is sensitive to it, changes occur which are detectable under a microscope. The most important test for coeliac disease is to examine a tiny snip, known as a biopsy, from the surface of the small intestine. A flexible telescope (endoscope) is usually passed through the mouth into the stomach and upper intestine so that the lining can be inspected and a biopsy taken. Alternatively, a biopsy can be obtained by swallowing a special capsule on the end of a narrow tube. The capsule is then recovered with the tissue sample inside. The characteristic change visible with the microscope is flattening of the tiny projections on the surface lining of the gut, which are called villi. The appearance is almost like the flattened pile in a carpet. If the biopsy is abnormal, a second test may be advised after a period to check that the intestinal surface has returned to normal. When there is doubt about a previous diagnosis, or the changes on biopsy are uncertain, another biopsy may be advised after a person deliberately takes gluten for a period (gluten challenge). You can learn more about coeliac disease by following this link: