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11th May 2020

‘Game changing’ new system to help diagnose 37,000 coeliacs in Ireland

Jade Hayden

“A phenomenal step forward.”

A new alert system is set to help GPs in Ireland diagnose thousands of cases of coeliac disease.

The tool, set to launch towards the end of this year, will assist doctors in identifying up to 37,000 undiagnosed sufferers of the life long illness.

It can sometimes take up to 10 years for a patient to be diagnosed as a coeliac under the current system.

50,000 people in Ireland are understood to have the condition, but the majority have yet to receive a formal diagnosis.

The new Coeliac Alert will plug into a software system currently used by half of Irish GPs and will be able to generate two types of alerts – one that triggers when a patient presents with symptoms common to coeliac disease, and another that notes when a person is registered with the disease in order to alert family members who may also be susceptible.

At the moment, there is no national register for coeliacs in Ireland, despite one in every 100 people in the country expected to have the disease.

Irish Coeliac Society CEO Gill Brennan says that the new alert system will bring relief to patients who have been unsure of their status for years.

“We have been working to raise awareness of coeliac disease amongst GPs, however, they are an exceedingly difficult group to target due to their geographical spread and heavy workload,” he said.

“The Coeliac Alert could be a game changer – enabling us to communicate with half of all practitioners in the country and help them ‘Think Coeliac’ when patients present with certain indicator conditions.

“This is a phenomenal step forward considering that 74 percent of all coeliac sufferers are currently undiagnosed.”

People living with undiagnosed coeliac disease are at risk of early-onset osteoporosis, infertility, growth failure in children, and bowel cancer. 

The illness has no cure though switching to a gluten free diet is actively encouraged.

Dr Helena Stokes, retired GP and coeliac patient, says that the new system has the potential to help thousands of people.

“GPs have a very heavy workload, which covers a wide spectrum of conditions,” she says.

“The activation of the alert, when a patient presents with symptoms common to Coeliac Disease, would, in my opinion, enable many more people to be diagnosed with Coeliac Disease.

“This would confer a health benefit to potentially thousands of patients.”