The number of children diagnosed with coeliac disease in the UK has almost tripled over the past 20 years, new research has found.
Data from The Health Improvement Network analysed by the University of Nottingham showed that the number of children aged two and over diagnosed with the condition increased almost threefold between 1993 and 2012.
The research, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, also reveals that children living in less socioeconomically deprived areas are about twice as likely to be diagnosed as those in areas with more deprivation.
“This research…gives us an insight on where we should be driving resources to increase awareness [of coeliac disease]”
Researchers said the rise in new cases among children was likely to be the result of better awareness of coeliac disease, as well as the means to diagnose it.
Around 1 in 100 people in the UK are estimated to have coeliac disease, however, only 24% of those with the condition are currently diagnosed.
The condition - an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system reacts to gluten from wheat, barley and rye, making the body attack itself – has no cure or medication. It is treated through a gluten-free diet.
National charity Coeliac UK – which jointly funded the research alongside gut and liver disease charity Core – welcomed the research findings, but said more needs to be done to improve diagnosis rates further.
Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK, said: “This research is very useful in providing a much better understanding of how many children have been diagnosed with coeliac disease, and gives us an insight on where we should be driving resources to increase awareness of coeliac disease and need for diagnosis.”
She added that the charity will launch a two-year diagnosis campaign in May to find the estimated half a million people in the UK who are currently undiagnosed.