Coeliac disease: review of diagnosis and management

Marjorie M Walker, Jonas F Ludvigsson and David S Sanders
Med J Aust 2017; 207 (4): . || doi: 10.5694/mja16.00788
Published online: 21 August 2017



  • Coeliac disease is an immune-mediated systemic disease triggered by exposure to gluten, and manifested by small intestinal enteropathy and gastrointestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms. Recent guidelines recommend a concerted use of clear definitions of the disease.
  • In Australia, the most recent estimated prevalence is 1.2% in adult men (1:86) and 1.9% in adult women (1:52). Active case finding is appropriate to diagnose coeliac disease in high risk groups. Diagnosis of coeliac disease is important to prevent nutritional deficiency and long term risk of gastrointestinal malignancy.
  • The diagnosis of coeliac disease depends on clinico-pathological correlation: history, presence of antitransglutaminase antibodies, and characteristic histological features on duodenal biopsy (when the patient is on a gluten-containing diet). Human leucocyte antigen class II haplotypes DQ2 or DQ8 are found in nearly all patients with coeliac disease, but are highly prevalent in the general population at large (56% in Australia) and testing can only exclude coeliac disease for individuals with non-permissive haplotypes.
  • Adhering to a gluten free diet allows duodenal mucosal healing and alleviates symptoms. Patients should be followed up with a yearly review of dietary adherence and a health check.
  • Non-coeliac gluten or wheat protein sensitivity is a syndrome characterised by both gastrointestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms related to the ingestion of gluten and possibly other wheat proteins in people who do not have coeliac disease or wheat allergy recognised by diagnostic tests.


  • 1 University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW
  • 2 Karolinksa Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 3 Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, United Kingdom

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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