Coeliac Disease

Who gets coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease affects people of all ages, both male and female.You must be born with the genetic predisposition to develop coeliac disease. The most important genes associated with susceptibility to coeliac disease are HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8. Either one or both of these genes are present in the majority of people with coeliac disease. While 30% of the population carry one or both of these genes, only 1 in 30 of these people (approximately) will get coeliac disease.A first degree relative (parent, sibling, child) of someone with coeliac disease has about a 10% chance of also having the disease. If one identical twin has coeliac disease there is an approximate 70% chance that the other twin will also have coeliac disease (but may not necessarily be diagnosed at the same time). If you or a close family member have been diagnosed with coeliac disease, download the family screening letter, which has been designed to take to a GP to request screening for family members who have not already been tested.Environmental factors play an important role in triggering coeliac disease in infancy, childhood or later in life.

What is coeliac disease?
In people with coeliac disease (pronounced ‘seel-ee-ak’ and spelt celiac in some countries) the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats), causing small bowel damage. The tiny, finger-like projections which line the bowel (villi) become inflamed and flattened. This is referred to as villous atrophy. Villous atrophy reduces the surface area of the bowel available for nutrient absorption, which can lead to various gastrointestinal and malabsorptive symptoms. Symptoms can also be caused by inflammation in other parts of the body. A number of serious health consequences can result if the condition is not diagnosed and treated properly.

Healthy Villi

Damaged Villi






How common is the condition?
Coeliac disease affects on average approximately 1 in 70 Australians. However, around 80% of this number remain undiagnosed. This means the vast majority of Australians who have coeliac disease don’t yet know it.Although better diagnosis rates in recent years can be partially attributed to improved awareness of the condition, there has also been a true increase in the incidence of coeliac disease.

Further information can be found on the Coeliac Queensland website